Boy George was originally born under the name George Alan O’Dowd, and he has a brilliant mind in music and songwriting. He is specifically famous for his soulful voice, his gorgeous makeup look, and his androgynous presentation. George was a follower of the New Romantic movement, which was popular in the UK in the early 1980s.
“They represented a kind of bohemian existence that I – at that point – could only imagine living. I loved the music. The first time I ever saw Marc Bolan really, properly was singing ‘Metal Guru’ and just loved him. I don’t think you can separate an artist from what they wear or what they sing – it’s kind of the complete package. It’s something which is very organic and individual”.
– Boy George
His career began when the ex-manager of Sex Pistols, Malcolm Mclaren, saw his androgynous look and asked him to perform with a group called Bow Wow Wow, under the stage name Lieutenant Lush. After the band encountered internal problems, George decided to leave and create his own band, together with Jon Moss, and Mikey Craig. Originally called Sex Gang Children, the band’s name was later changed to its sticking name Culture Club, because of the cultural background the members had.
Culture Club became a huge hit, the appearance of Boy George created a strange but enchanting group. Virgin Records expressed interest in signing the group in the UK for European releases, while Epic Records handled the US and North American distribution. They recorded their debut album Kissing to Be Clever (UK No. 5, US No. 14,) and it was released in 1982. The single “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” became an international hit, reaching No. 1 in multiple countries around the world, plus top ten in several more countries (US No. 2). This was followed by the Top 5 hit “Time” in the US and UK, and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” which reached US No. 9. This gave Culture Club the distinction of being the first group since the Beatles to have three Top 10 hits in the US from a debut album.
They then came out with their all-time best-selling album ever, Color by Numbers, with the lead song titled “Karma Chameleon” which became a go-to song for dance floors in clubs and bars. The catchy lyrics, the soulful voice that Boy George has and his skillful songwriting, married with the infectious beat made Karma Chameleon a chart-topper.
After Culture Club’s untimely downfall, the public never got tired of Boy George, his particularly striking fashion sense made him an icon, and even until now he’s famous as a Disc Jockey and singer.
When George was with Culture Club, much was made of his androgynous appearance, and there was speculation about his sexuality. When asked by Joan Rivers in an interview on her show in 1983, “Do you prefer men or women?”, George replied, “Oh both.” In 1985, when asked by Barbara Walters about his sexual orientation, George said he was bisexual and had various girlfriends and boyfriends.
In his 1995 autobiography Take It Like a Man, George stated that he was actually gay, not bisexual, and that he had secret relationships with punk rock singer Kirk Brandon and Culture Club drummer, Jon Moss. He stated many of the songs he wrote for Culture Club were about his relationship with Moss. In a 2008 documentary Living with Boy George, he talked about how he realized he was gay, when he first came out to his parents, and why men fall in love with one another as well as with women.
His newest work in music is “Boy Maybe” a song about giving a partner a little space so they can work their thoughts and feelings into a relationship. Give it a listen on streaming platforms!
It is wonderful that we can still enjoy his works and music today. We are truly blessed to have such a talented artist representing the LGBT community!