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Boy George

British singer Boy George combined a strong, soulful singing voice with a provocative sense of fashion, both of which were first brought to the attention of English and American audiences in the group Culture Club, for whom he served as lead singer from 1982 to 1986. The group wrote and played impeccable pop music, and Boy George's androgynous persona -- heavy makeup and outrageous costumes -- gave the group a distinct video image in the dawn of MTV. That very distinctiveness, however, made the group date quickly, and at the same time Boy George encountered highly publicized personal difficulties. He re-emerged as a solo singer in 1987 with Sold, which contained a U.K. number one cover of Bread's "Everything I Own," but was unable to duplicate this success in the U.S. Boy George enjoyed four British singles' chart entries in 1987 and another three in 1988. His second album, Tense Nervous Headache (1988), was not picked up for release in the U.S.; his third, Boyfriend (1989), was a Europe-only release, though Virgin Records cobbled the second and third albums together to present a second U.S. album, High Hat (1989). In 1991 came The Martyr Mantras, another patchwork album largely made up of previously non-LP dance singles. In the U.K., it was credited to a new group, Jesus Loves You, and released on Boy George's own More Protein record label, though Virgin in the U.S. billed it as a Boy George album. By 1992, Boy George had faded at home, and in the U.S. his solo career had never taken off. Then he was brought in to sing a version of the '60s chestnut "The Crying Game" in a production by the Pet Shop Boys, as the title song for a movie that became the sleeper hit of the winter of 1992-1993, resulting in his first substantial U.S. hit as a solo artist. Cheapness and Beauty followed in 1995, and four years later Boy George resurfaced with the rarities collection Unrecoupable One Man Bandit. Throughout the '90s, he delved back into the club scene that birthed his early romanticism, and made a name for himself as DJ in demand. It became more than a hobby toward the end of the millennium, and Boy George garnered attention in the U.K. and U.S. club circuits; such musical creativity was captured on Essential Mix, released in fall 2000. ~ William Ruhlmann

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