George Michael: A Look Back at His Pop Culture Milestones

Christmas feels a lot colder with the loss George Michael, who sadly passed away at the age 53.

Michael, who emerged on the pop scene as one-half the duo, Wham!, formed with Andrew Ridgely in 1981, left an indelible imprint on pop music. He later found success as a solo artist, selling over 100 million albums, winning two Grammy and Brit Awards as well as three American Music Awards.

Billboard looks back on some his major moments in pop culture and on the charts.

He Brought Rap Into the UK Pop Music Scene

When Wham! arrived on the scene, Michael rapped in the single, "Wham Rap! ("Enjoy What You Do").  Rap was still very much an American phenomenon, but this song brought the sound to the UK with a somewhat political message challenging Britain's left wing and the "right to work" platform as the duo embraced unemployment and asked "Do you enjoy what you do?"

He Started A Fashion Revolution

Wham! had their first No. 1 hit in 1984 with "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go," but the song encouraged more than hanging on like a yo-yo.  The charismatic and handsome singer wore shirts designed by Katharine Hamnett and brightly covered gloves, igniting a fashion trend that extended to teens across the globe.

He Did His Part in "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

In 1984, Michael joined the biggest stars the decade -- including organizers Sir Bob Geld and Midge Ure along with Bono, Sting, Boy George, Simon LeBon and Paul Young -- to record "Do They Know It's Christmas?" His line -"But say a prayer/pray for the other ones" -- is a standout moment on the track.

He Created A Christmas Classic

What do Taylor Swift, Jimmy Eat World, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ashley Tisdale, Avril Lavigne and the cast Glee all have in common? They covered "Last Christmas," a song released as a double A side the "Everything She Wants" single. To this day, nothing tops the 1984 original.

He Teams Up With Aretha Franklin for His First Grammy Award

When Michael joined Aretha Franklin for a duet on the song, "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," the results were magical. Written by Simon Climie, later known as Clime Fisher, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as the UK chart--Franklin's only No. 1 in the UK  Featuring future American Idol judge Randy Jackson on the track, the song went on to win a Grammy Award.

He Encouraged People to "Explore Monogamy"

"I Want Your Sex" was initially released on the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop 2, but was then included on his breakout solo album, Faith. The video -- an ode to his monogamous relationship with then girlfriend Kathy Jeung -- generated controversy for its racy theme, and had censorship issues while the video took heat for its sexual themes. In 2002, MTV2 placed it at No. 3 in its  countdown MTV's Most Controversial Videos Ever to Air on MTV.

He Encouraged a Generation to Have Faith

He needed some time f from that emotion, and was rewarded as "Faith" was recognized by Billboard as the record the year. The record had such staying power if was later covered by both Limp Bizkit and Lake Street Dive, respectively.

Madonna Presents Him With The Video Vanguard Award

As a member Wham! and later with the release his solo album, Faith, Michael was honored one year after Michael Jackson as the recipient the Video Vanguard Award in 1989. He was presented with the award by Madonna, who praised his "classy videos."

He Didn't Let the Sun Go Down on Him

Originally performed as a duet with Elton John at Live Aid in 1985, Michael repeated its success In 1991 when he brought the singer out as a surprise guest at Wembley. The 1991 single "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" shot to No. 1 in the U.S. and the U.K. -- besting its best chart performance No. 2. Did anyone else sound classier saying, "Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Elton John"?

He Joined Queen for An Iconic Tribute to Freddie Mercury

One year after the passing Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury, George Michael joined the band for a truly epic version the group's "Somebody to Love." The performance was widely praised as one the best the tribute, so much so there was talk Michael joining the band as the new lead singer. The single shot to the No. 1 position on the UK charts in 1993,

He Slowly Embraced His Own Sexuality

Years before he ficially came out to the world, Michael recorded this beautiful song on his 1996 record, Older, dedicated to his Brazilian lover Anselmo Feleppo, who died an AIDS related brain hemorrhage. He consistently dedicated the song to him until his death.

He "Shoots the Dog" Opposing the Iraq War

In 2002, Michael made his voice heard in opposition to the Iraq War with "Shoot the Dog."  The song was critical then president George W. Bush and Tony Blair. The video featured and appearance by Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

His 2008 Appearance on 'American Idol' Inspires at the Finale

In 2008, Michael wasn't looking well, but he took to the American Idol stage like a pro to perform "Praying For Time," from his album Listen Without Prejudice, Volume 1. Carrie Underwood performed the song on the special, Idol Gives Back, but Michael's version on the Season 7 finale was magical. This was vintage Michael, and a goosebumps inspiring performance.

His Appearance With James Corden on 'Comic Relief" Kickstarts Carpool Karaoke

Michael's 2011 appearance on Comic Relief with James Corden -- where he chides Corden that he "doesn't want to be seen in public with a gay man" -- snowballs into the two men singing the Wham! hit "I'm Your Man" in the car. It's a brief moment, but we now have Michael to thank for the popular sketch, which has gone on to feature appearances by Mariah Carey, Madonna, Adele, Selena Gomez, One Direction and more.