Boy George: Wikis


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Boy George

Background information
Birth name George Alan O'Dowd
Born 14 June 1961 (1961-06-14) (age 48)
Eltham, London, England
Genres Soul, pop, rock, dance
Occupations Singer–songwriter, DJ
Instruments Vocals, turntables
Years active 1981–present
Labels Virgin Records
Epic Records
More Protein
Plan A Records
Associated acts Culture Club, Jesus Loves You

Boy George (born George Alan O'Dowd; 14 June 1961) is an English singer-songwriter who was part of the English New Romantic movement which emerged in the early 1980s. He helped give androgyny an international stage with the success of Culture Club during the 1980s. His music is often classified as blue-eyed soul, which is influenced by rhythm and blues and reggae. His 1990s and 2000s-era solo music has glam influences such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. He also founded and was lead singer of Jesus Loves You during the period 1989–1992. Being involved in many activities (among them songwriting, DJing, writing books, designing clothes and photography), he has released fewer music recordings in the last decade.

On 11 May 2009, Boy George was released from prison at HMP Edmunds Hill in Newmarket, Suffolk, four months into a fifteen-month sentence for the assault and false imprisonment of a male escort in his East London flat. He was tagged and placed on a curfew for the balance of the sentence.[1]

In December 2009, Boy George had a successful run of concerts at the Leicester Square Theatre in London's West End.



Early life and career

Boy George was born George Alan O'Dowd at Barnehurst Hospital in Bexley, London on 14 June 1961, to Gerald and Dinah O'Dowd (née Glynn),[2] who were originally from Thurles, County Tipperary in Ireland.[3] He is one of six children. His siblings are Richard, Kevin, David, Gerald, and Siobhan.

He was a follower of the New Romantic movement which was popular in Britain in the early 1980s. O'Dowd and his friend Marilyn were regulars at The Blitz, a trendy London nightclub run by Steve Strange of the group Visage.[4] O'Dowd and Marilyn also worked at the nightclub as cloakroom attendants.

Culture Club

Boy George's androgynous style of dressing caught the attention of music executive Malcolm McLaren (previously the inspiration behind the Sex Pistols), who arranged for O'Dowd to perform with the group Bow Wow Wow, featuring Annabella Lwin. Boy George's association with Bow Wow Wow ended soon afterwards, and he started his own group with bassist Mikey Craig. The group was to be called 'In Praise of Lemmings', but the name was later abandoned. Jon Moss (who had been the drummer with The Damned, Adam and the Ants and London) then joined the group. The final member to join the band was Roy Hay. The group abandoned another name, Sex Gang Children, and settled on the name Culture Club, referring to the ethnic background of the members; a transvestite English singer (George), a Jamaican-Briton (Craig), the Jewish drummer (Moss), and an Anglo-Saxon Englishman (Hay).

The band signed with Virgin Records in the UK, and with Epic Records in the US and released its debut album Kissing to Be Clever (UK#5, US#14) in 1982. The single "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?", reached #1 in a dozen countries around the world, and #2 in the United States. This was followed by the Top 10 hit "Time (Clock of the Heart)" in the US and UK, and I"ll Tumble 4 Ya" which reached US #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.

Their next album, Colour By Numbers was an enormous success, topping the UK charts and hit #2 in the US. The single "Church of the Poison Mind" (featuring Helen Terry) became a Top 10 hit, and "Karma Chameleon" became a #1 single in sixteen countries, including the US, where it stayed at #1 for three weeks. It was the best-selling single of the year in the UK, spending six weeks at #1. "Miss Me Blind" and "It's a Miracle" were Top 5 and Top 20 hits respectively, and "Victims" was another UK hit.

George co-wrote the group's contributions to the movie soundtrack Electric Dreams, the songs "The Dream" and "Love is Love", were written solely by George and Roy Hay. Moreover, the P. P. Arnold song "Electric Dreams" was credited only to George and Phil Pickett. The band's third album Waking Up with the House on Fire (UK#2, US#26) featured the hit single "The War Song", but sales of the album were not as strong as the first two. George also had a lead vocal role on the Band Aid international hit single "Do They Know It's Christmas". Proceeds from the single were donated to feed famine victims in Africa. In 1986, George guest-starred on an episode of the television action-drama The A-Team, in which he played himself. The episode was entitled "Cowboy George".

George had been occasionally using drugs, but by 1985 he had developed a heroin addiction. The group's next album From Luxury To Heartache (UK#10, US#32) featured the hit single "Move Away", but once again did not match their earlier success. George was arrested by the British police for possession of cannabis. Keyboardist Michael Rudetski, who co-wrote and played on the song "Sexuality" on Culture Club's From Luxury to Heartache album, was found dead of a heroin overdose in George's home in London. This followed the death of friend Mark Vaultier, who overdosed on methadone and Valium at a party Boy George was to attend. George had been arrested en-route to the party on suspicion of carrying drugs. Culture Club disbanded several months after the release of their fourth album.

Solo career: 1980s

His heroin addiction still a problem and a subsequent dependence on prescription narcotics emerging, George started recording his first solo album. In 1987, Sold was released and George enjoyed several hit singles including "Everything I Own" (UK #1), "Keep Me In Mind" (UK #29), "To be Reborn" (UK #13) as well as the title song (UK #24). Despite UK success, George never managed to duplicate his success in the United States; he was not able to work in America because of the previous year's drug charges. He did have a Top 40 hit with the single "Live My Life" (#40 US) from the Hiding Out soundtrack. His second US album High Hat was composed of various songs from two of his solo British albums released after Sold. The first single from "High Hat" entitled "Don't Take My Mind On A Trip", produced by Teddy Riley, became a Top 5 R&B hit. His following release was a protest song against the governing UK Conservative Party's legal restrictions on anyone working for a local authority "promoting" homosexuality, 'No Clause 28 (Emilio Pasquez Space Face Full Remix)' was an underground acid house hit.

In 1989, George formed his own label, More Protein and recorded under the name Jesus Loves You, (writing under the pseudonym Angela Dust). He released two other underground club songs "After The Love" and "Generations Of Love", and "Bow Down Mister". With "Bow Down Mister", he returned to the UK top 30 in 1991. Inspired by his involvement in the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON),[5] George had written the song during a trip to India. A third single taken from it, "One On One" became popular in its single version, remixed by Massive Attack).

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Solo career: 1990s

From March 1990 to April 1991, George presented a weekly chat and music show on the Power Station satellite channel called Blue Radio. In 1992, George had a hit with the song "The Crying Game" (produced by the Pet Shop Boys), which was featured in the movie of the same name, and reached the top-twenty of the US Hot 100. Although he had had several solo hits in the UK, this would be his first and only big US hit since the Culture Club song "Move Away" reached the Top 20 in America in 1986.

George made many recordings between 1990 and 1994, but none were issued. A pop and world music-oriented album was scheduled for release by Jesus Loves You in 1992, named "Popularity Breeds Contempt", but never came out. Only three tracks with their respective remixed versions survived, ending up on the "Sweet Toxic Love" EP, released in the last year of the 1990 year (which only reached #65 in the UK Chart). The album (the tentative title of which, "Popularity Breeds Contempt", also survived as opening line spoken at the beginning of the 1993 collection called At Worst: The Best of Boy George and Culture Club) was shelved, as it were, in favour of the recent growing interest in rock for George.

He released a rock-driven Cheapness and Beauty in 1995, but the album was not successful, although "Same Thing in Reverse" did become a minor US hit. A follow-up to Cheapness And Beauty, tentatively named "Too Spooky" was recorded in spring 1996, but it was shelved. Some of the tracks from those sessions appeared later on The Unrecoupable One Man Bandit Volume One, which was at first sold on the internet only and then distributed by several minor labels. Another project from the time was a new group that would include Boy George and two long-time musicians, John Themis and Richie Stevens. Initially named "Shallow", it was later re-named "Dubversive". The project took place in 1997 and was to include trip-hop, dub and reggae. The project was shelved, this time due to a lack of interest by record companies because of the group's lack of commercial appeal. Some songs from those sessions surfaced later on the 2002 Culture Club Box set and some others appeared on eBay in 2004.

On some other labels, several dance-oriented tracks were released in various countries. For example, "Love is Leaving" went top 3 in Italy and "When Will You Learn" reached the top positions in the Switzerland charts. "When Will You Learn" was also nominated for the Best Dance Recording, at the Grammy Awards. In 1999, Boy George collaborated on songs with dance-oriented acts. For example, "Why Go", a slow-paced track with Faithless, from their Sunday 8 PM LP, was later released in a remixed form in some European countries and Australia. A track was done with Groove Armada, named "Innocence Is Lost", but was only released on a promo 12" in 1999.

Solo career: 2000s

Despite his lack of solo success, Boy George remained a figure in the public eye. Although he never reached the same level of success as in the 1980s, he has enjoyed a second career as a notable music DJ. He started DJing in the early 1990s and came to the attention of legendary rave/house promoters Fantazia who asked him to mix 1 of the discs on the 2 volume in their new compilation series Fantazia The House Collection 2. This compilation was a success in the UK, going gold. The album was also sold to Sony for European-wide release. London nightclub Ministry of Sound hired him to compile one of their first CDs, and it promptly sold 100,000 copies. He then completed some compilations for them, five of them being the Annual I to V. In 2002/2003 he starred in the London musical Taboo, based on his life (George didn't play himself, opting instead to take on the persona of Australian-born performance artist Leigh Bowery). Boy George was nominated for a Tony Awards for the "Best Musical Score" and Taboo was a great success in London's West End, though a heavily altered Rosie O'Donnell-produced run in New York was short-lived (100 performances only, against the two-year run in England).

In 2002, Boy George released U Can Never B2 Straight, an "unplugged" collection of rare and lesser known acoustic works. It contained unreleased tracks from previous years as well as some ballads from Cheapness And Beauty and the Culture Club album Don't Mind if I Do. It received the best reviews of Boy George's solo career, many of them highlighting his strong song writing abilities. The record was only released in the UK and Japan, and received almost no promotion from Virgin Records, only rising to #147 on the UK album charts.

From 2002 to 2004, under the pseudonym "the Twin", Boy George experimented in electronica, releasing limited edition 7" singles and promo records. Performed in small venues such as the Nag Nag Club, the material was considered innovative, but not commercially marketable.[citation needed] This period, however, was a very creative and liberating one for George; for "the Twin", could sing whatever he wanted. The limited releases included four 500 to 520 copies 7", one limited 12" (for Sanitized) and a promo CD, 1000 copies 13-track album Yum Yum. Two years later, it was released via digital outlets like iTunes. An album recorded in the Spring of 2003 was also shelved. A collaboration with electronic combo T-Total, the album was a collection of covers of songs by Jefferson Airplane, David Bowie, John Lennon, Dusty Springfield, T. Rex, and the Eurythmics among others. It is suggested that Boy George's numerous abandoned projects are due to his broad interest and need to explore other creative mediums such as photography, writing, and fashion.

During 2003, he presented a weekly show on London radio station LBC 97.3 for six months. He wrote the foreword for a feng shui book called Practical Feng Shui by Simon G. Brown (published in 1998). He also appeared as a guest on the British comedy-talk show The Kumars at No. 42. In March 2005 he was the guest host for an episode of The Friday Night Project, for Channel 4 television.

On his "More Protein" website, George did announce another unreleased album, named Straight, for mid-2005. It was to include tracks such as "Panic" and "Talking Love". Fortunately, four tracks were released as a sampler with the book of the same name in 2005. A reggaeton oriented EP was also planned for August 2006 but was never released. Some recent tracks were shared by George himself in late 2006 and early 2007 on his YouTube account, his three myspace pages and sometimes on his official site.In January 2007, Boy George released "Time Machine" on Plan A Records. "Time Machine" was co-written by double Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter Amanda Ghost who also co-wrote "You're Beautiful" with James Blunt.[6]

On 20 October 2006, it was announced that he will write some tracks for Kylie Minogue ( story) with Amanda Ghost. The songs eventually were not included on her 2007 album. It was not the first time that George wrote songs to other artists; in the past, he shared compositions with the Beach Boys, Caron Wheeler, Charlotte Church, Mica Paris and many others. He also wrote many of the tracks for the artists on his own dance oriented music label, More Protein, such as Eve Gallagher, Zee Asha, Lippy Lou, and E-Zee Possee.

Boy George has run his own fashion line for some years, namely "B-Rude". B-Rude has shown at fashion shows in London, New-York and Moscow. He is working right now on a forthcoming solo LP, which apparently will be including some ragga, reggae, pop and acoustic songs. On 24 December 2006, George appeared on a one-off BBC TV programme Duet Impossible where he performed with himself from the 1980s and joked about his street cleaning.

Later in 2007, two electronica/dance collaborations were released in limited editions. In the spring, the track "You're Not The One" was remixed from an old demo and released with the dance combo "Loverush UK" reaching the top 20 in the UK dance chart. It was a digital-only release, available in many digital retailers like iTunes. Also on iTunes, a new collaboration with trip-hop/electro band Dark Globe, called "Atoms", was released on 19 November. The single contains eight versions, from the slow original to electro remixes by Ariya and Henrik Schwarz. Also in late 2007, an EP titled "Disco Abomination" appeared on the internet, available for download on several underground outlets. It included new remixes of tracks like "Turn 2 Dust", "Love Your Brother", and covers of "Don't Wanna See Myself" and "Go Your Own Way". Most of the versions are remixes done by German producer Kinky Roland.

On 25 February 2007, George was special guest DJ at LGBT nightspot, The Court Hotel in Perth, Western Australia. On 4 March 2007, George performed as a DJ at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney for the Mardi Gras Festival. On 11 May 2007, George performed as a DJ at the launch party for the Palazzo Versace in Dubai, UAE. George cancelled his planned 2007 October tour via an announcement on his official website. In 2007: George toured as a DJ, visiting Florence, Stuttgart, Rotterdam, Toulouse, Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Syndey, Dubai, Skopje, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Toronto, Cagliari, Blackpool, Coventry, Munich, Naples, Mantova, Lyon, Follonica, Paris, Kristiansand, Noli, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Amsterdam, Beirut, Budapest, Skanderborg, Baia, London, Mykonos, Geneva, Lausanne, Stockholm, Manchester, Brussels, Bologna, Hongkong, Letterkenny, Aix-en-Provence, Reims, Moscow and Genova.

George has played a special residency at the Shaw Theatre in London (in which all shows were sold out) from 23 January 2008, followed by a full UK tour.[7] In April 2008, The Biography Channel featured a documentary on the life of Boy George. The North American tour which was planned for July/August 2008 had to be cancelled because he had been denied a United States visa due to a London court case scheduled for November 2008. On 2 July, 6 concert dates in South America were announced. Boy George participated in RETROFEST held in Scotland in August 2008,[8] and a 30-date UK tour took place in in October/November 2008.


In July 1998, a reunited Culture Club performed three dates in Monte Carlo and then joined the Human League and Howard Jones in a "Big Rewind" tour of the US. The following month, the band appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and made an appearance in Britain, their first in 14 years. Later that year, the band had a Top 5 hit in the UK with "I Just Wanna Be Loved" and later a top 30 hit with "Your Kisses are Charity". In 2006, the band decided to again reunite and tour; however, George declined to join them for this tour. As a result, two members of Culture Club replaced George with vocalist Sam Butcher. George has expressed his displeasure at the turn of events.[9] Finally, after one showcase and one live show, that project was shelved.

Personal life

George struggled against his severe heroin addiction for many years.[10] He attempted to perform concerts under its influence. Addictions to other drugs followed. Motivated by a desire to save George's life, his younger brother David made an appearance on UK national television and blew the whistle on George's drug habit. Michael Rudetsky, a close friend of George's and the co-writer of the From Luxury to Heartache album, was found dead of a heroin overdose in George's home in August 1986.

In 1986, Boy George was arrested for heroin possession as part of 'Operation Culture'.[11]

In 1995, Kirk Brandon sued for libel claiming that Boy George mentioned a non-existent love affair between them in his autobiography, Take It Like a Man. George won the case and Brandon was ordered to pay £200,000 to Virgin Records, EMI Virgin Music and the book publisher in costs. Brandon declared himself bankrupt, which resulted in Boy George paying over £60,000 in legal fees (Boy George with Paul Gorman (2005), Straight, London, Arrow Book).

On 7 October 2005, Boy George was arrested in Manhattan on suspicion of cocaine possession and falsely reporting a burglary. George denied that the drug was his.[12] In court on 1 February 2006, the cocaine possession charge was dropped and George pled guilty to falsely reporting a burglary. He was sentenced to five days of community service, fined $1,000 and ordered to attend a drug rehabilitation program.[13]

On 17 June 2006, a Manhattan judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Boy George after he failed to appear in court for a hearing on why George wanted to change his sentence for the false burglary report. George's attorney informed the court that he had advised George not to appear at that hearing.[14]

On 14 August 2006, Boy George reported to the New York Department of Sanitation for his court-ordered community service. As a result of the swarming media coverage, he was allowed to finish his community service inside the Sanitation Department grounds.[15]

In a February 2007 interview, the performer explained: “People have this idea of Boy George now, particularly the media: that I’m tragic, fucked up. I mean, I’m all those things, but I’m also lots of other things. Yes, I’ve had my dark periods, but that isn’t all I am.”[16]

On 5 December 2008, Boy George was convicted in Snaresbrook Crown Court, London, of the assault and false imprisonment of Audun Carlsen.[17] On 16 January 2009, he was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for this offence.[18] Initially sent to HMP Pentonville in London, he was later transferred to HMP Edmunds Hill in Newmarket, Suffolk (a category C prison).[19]

On 11 May 2009, Boy George was released after serving four months of his fifteen-month custodial sentence at HMP Edmunds Hill. He was released on home detention curfew and was required to wear an ankle monitor for 90 days.[20]

On 23 December 2009, Boy George had his request to appear on the final series of Celebrity Big Brother turned down by the Probation Service. Richard Clayton QC, representing the Probation Service, said O'Dowd's participation would pose "a high level of risk" to the service's reputation. Mr Clayton argued that if he used the show to promote his status as a celebrity and earn "a lucrative sum of money" it could undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system.[21]


Harper Collins published his first autobiography, Take It Like a Man, in 1995, written with Spencer Bright. The book was released to coincide with the timing of George's solo album, Cheapness and Beauty, actually released at the same time, dealing with the same themes, and also including a number of photographs as in the book. Take It Like a Man was a bestseller in the UK.

In 2005, Century published Straight, his second autobiographical book, this time written with author Paul Gorman. It stayed in The Sunday Times bestseller list for six weeks. This latter autobiography starts off there where the former had stopped, though the two works are different in style, due to their different co-authors, and all of the chapters have a title in the 2005 book, while the 1995 autobiography only featured numbered sections.

Gorman has also ghost-written Cry Salty Tears, the memoirs of George's mother Dinah O'Dowd, which was published by Arrow Books, in January 2007. The same year also saw the publication of Straight in paperback. It was originally supposed to be updated, but Boy George declined to do so since he felt the book was too bitter and negative about other people, and he regretted writing it.

Sexual orientation

When George was with Culture Club, much was made of his androgynous appearance, and there was speculation about his sexuality. When asked in interviews, George gave various answers. At times, such as when interviewed by Barbara Walters, he stated he was bisexual[citation needed]. He gave a famous, often quoted response to an interviewer that he preferred "a nice cup of tea" to sex.[22]

In Take It Like A Man, George told his side of his secret relationship with Culture Club drummer Jon Moss. He stated many of the songs he wrote for Culture Club were directed at Moss. He also alleged that Moss had broken off his engagement with a woman to be with George, but that Moss was never comfortable in a same-sex relationship, although Moss was bisexual.

In 2006, in an episodic documentary directed by Simon George titled "The Madness of Boy George", George declared on camera that he was "militantly gay".[23] In a 2008 documentary directed by Mike Nicholls titled "Living With Boy George", George talks about his first realisation that he was gay, and when he first told his parents. He discloses that he understands why men fall in love with one another as well as with women.[24]


see also : Culture Club discography


  1. ^ Paul Revoir (2009-05-12). "Out, the new Boy George appeared thinner with a healthy glow after stint in prison | Mail Online". Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Boy George with Spencer Bright, Take It Like A Man (Harper Collins, First U.S. Edition, 1995) pp.481-482. On page 482, he says, "I enjoy the rituals of offering obeisances to Krishna and chanting, especially when there are hundreds of devotees jumping and banging drums. At that moment it seems like the human ego is truly transcended. I do find the sexual attitudes far too rigid, though I admit the cycle of desire is fraught with anxiety and disappointment. I don't choose to cut off from it, maybe I enjoy the pain." On page 481 he says, "'Bow Down Mister' swept me up in a spiritual whirl and I became an unlikely queer envoy for Krishna Consciousness."
  6. ^ "Boy George 'enjoyed' street sweep". BBC News. 2006-09-07. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  7. ^ "Review: Boy George live last night (thelondonpaper)". 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  8. ^ "Fact File: Retrofest", Scotland on Sunday, 25 May 2008
  9. ^ "Boy George slams new Club singer". BBC News. 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  10. ^ Boy George with Spencer Bright, Take it Like a Man, London, Sigwick & Jackson, 1995
  11. ^ Dugan, Emily. "Boy George 'chained male escort to a wall in his flat' - Crime, UK - The Independent". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  12. ^ "Musician Boy George has appeared in court...", BBC Online Report, 8 October 2008
  13. ^ "Singer Boy George has had a charge of possessing cocaine dropped by a New York court", BBC News report, 8 March 2006
  14. ^ "Boy George Angers NYC Judge", wcbstv from AP report, 17 June 2006
  15. ^ "A feisty Boy George reports for garbage duty", msnbc, 14 August 2006
  16. ^
  17. ^ Angela Balakrishna"Boy George guilty of falsely imprisoning male escort", The Guardian, 5 December 2008.
  18. ^ "Boy George jailed for 15 months". BBC News Online. 16 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  19. ^ « George 'to serve just four of his 15 months',, 24 January 2009.
  20. ^ Healthy-looking Boy George salutes freedom as he's released early from prison, 11 May 2009
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ "Becoming an Icon - A Cup of Tea - Icons of England". Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ [3]


  • De Graaf Kasper, Garret Malcolm (1983), When Cameras Go Crazy, London, UK, Virgin Books & New York, NY, USA, St. Martin's Press; ISBN 0-312-17879-4 (Culture Club's official biography)
  • Boy George with Spencer Bright (1995), Take It Like a Man, London, Sidgwick & Jackson (Boy George's first official autobiography)
  • Boy George with Paul Gorman (2004), Straight, London, Century (Boy George's second official autobiography - republished in 2007 with updates - first edition includes EP of the same name)

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

George Alan O'Dowd, better known as Boy George, (born June 14, 1961, in Eltham, Kent, England) is an English singer-songwriter. George grew up in a large, working-class Irish family.


  • Gay unions, what is that about? I haven't been invited to any ceremonies, and I wouldn't go anyway. The idea that gay people have to mimic what obviously doesn't work for straight people any more ... I think is a bit tragic. I am looking forward to gay divorces.
    • The London Evening Standard, 20 February 2006:
  • Madonna is "a living, breathing cash register".
    • The London Evening Standard, 20 February 2006:
  • I was pleased because he is the first American rapper to say something positive about gay people. I met his mum, she's lovely.
    • The London Evening Standard, 20 February 2006:
    • On Kanye West's winning of the Brit award
  • Hello, I'm Boy George, and you are watching RBTV. Come out of the closet, all you students - we want you!
    • RBTV (Rainier Beach High School TeleVision in Seattle), 1996
  • I'm not gay, and I'm not a transvestite.
    • London newspaper, 1984
    • At other times he has characterized himself as "bisexual", "very confused", "not confused", and "not really all that keen on sex".

External links

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Simple English

George Alan O'Dowd, better known as Boy George (born June 14, 1961 in Eltham, London) is a rock singer-songwriter and Club DJ. He grew up in a large, working-class Irish family. The family which originally came form Thurles, in Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

O'Dowd was a part of the British new romantic movement which emerged in the late 1970s and was popularised in the early 1980s. He and Marilyn (born Peter Robinson) were regulars at 'The Blitz' (regulars being labelled as Blitz Kids), a highly stylised nightclub in London run by Steve Strange of the musical group Visage, and a place which spawned many early 1980s pop stars such as Spandau Ballet. Essentially the new romantics based their image on the coolness of David Bowie and high fashion, and the music of Bowie, Kraftwerk, Marc Bolan and post punk New Wave - see Taboo.

O'Dowd gained fame with his group Culture Club during the 1980s. His music is often classified as blue-eyed soul, since he was heavily influenced by Rhythm and Blues and reggae. Early recordings with Culture Club showed that O'Dowd's vocals had an emotional quality which was like American soul music of the 1960s and 1970s. His later solo work has also touched on glam rock influences and was particularly influenced by David Bowie and Iggy Pop.

O'Dowd is also known for his flamboyant and androgynous appearance back in the 80s and early 90s.

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