On this day in music history: May 13, 1996 – “Older”, the third album by George Michael is released (US release date is on May 14, 1996). Produced by George Michael and Jon Douglas, it is recorded at SARM West Studio Two in Notting Hill, London and Aegean Studios in London from Mid 1993 – Early 1996. The pop superstar’s first full length release in nearly six years, it comes after a long legal battle with Sony Music. Michael battles his label for his release over the terms of his contract, and what he feels was the under promotion of the “Listen Without Prejudice, V.1” album by the US division. He winds up losing the case, and remains bound to Sony until 1995, when Virgin Records in the UK and the newly formed Dreamworks SKG label jointly owned by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. Their company purchases George Michael’s contract from Sony, for an undisclosed sum. In the interim period, Michael has been working on and off on new music, though for the first time in his progress is slowed by writer’s block as well as dealing with other issues in his personal life. Having met Brazilian fashion designer Anselmo Feleppa after performing at the Rock In Rio festival in 1991, Michael enters into his first committed relationship with a man. Tragedy strikes when only six months later, Feleppa discovers that he is HIV positive. Michael himself is not infected, but ceases all work to care for his partner who passes away on March 26, 1993. Shaken by the loss, Feleppa’s death is the catalyst for one of George Michael’s most poignant and moving songs, writing the lyrics to “Jesus To A Child” (#1 UK, #7 US Pop) in just an hour and a half. Once again confident in his creative ability, Michael begins writing and recording again. Musically, “Older” picks up where “Listen Without Prejudice” leaves off, taking on a moodier and jazzier feel and is a direct reflection of what the singer has experienced over the previous three years. The album is an immediate smash in Europe and throughout much of the rest of the world, though the response in the US is decidedly muted and less enthusiastic, with American fans being more accustomed to Michael’s more pop oriented material. It spins off three singles (six internationally) including “Fastlove” (#1 UK, #8 US Pop) and Spinning The Wheel" (#2 UK). In 1997, an expanded edition is released in Europe with a bonus disc titled “Upper” featuring six bonus tracks including remixes and two previously unreleased songs. “Older” spends four weeks at number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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