Boy George

On this day in 1961, George O'Dowd, who became famous as Boy George of

Culture Club, was born in Eltham, Kent, England. Culture Club came

together at the start of the '80s, when cross-dressing singer Boy George,

in search of a band after having briefly been a member of Bow

Wow Wow, met bassist and former DJ Mike Craig. They were

introduced to Jon Moss, a drummer who had worked with the Clash, the

Damned and Adam and the Ants. In 1981, guitarist/keyboardist Ron Hay

joined the three and George began calling the band Culture Club.

In 1982, as George's androgynous image began attracting media attention in

the U.K.,

Culture Club were signed to Virgin Records, which released their debut,

Kissing to Be Clever. The album featured George's soulful vocals

combined with catchy dance-pop. Its single

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Culture_Club/Do_You_Really_Want_To_

Hurt_Me.ram">"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" (RealAudio excerpt)

topped the U.K. chart for three weeks.

Early the next year, the album entered the U.S. charts, where it remained

for 88 weeks.

George's heavy makeup, flowing dresses and quick wit made a media

splash and installed the group as favorites of the fledgling cable music

channel MTV, helping to propel "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" to #2 in

the States. Culture Club were now a

worldwide pop phenomenon.

The band's second album, Colour by

Numbers, followed quickly and became a

multi-platinum smash in the U.K., U.S., Australia, Japan, Canada and New

Zealand. The irresistible single "Karma Chameleon" topped the

Billboard

Hot 100 for three weeks; the album almost certainly would have made #1 were

it

not on the charts at the same time as Michael Jackson's phenomenally

popular Thriller.

Culture Club enjoyed three other hits from Colour by

Numbers, including "Church of

the Poison Mind," and won 1983's Best New Artist Grammy Award.

The next album, Waking Up With the House on Fire (1984), was a

surprising critical and commercial failure relative to Culture Club's first

two

offerings, derailing their seemingly unstoppable ride to the top.

A final Culture Club album, issued in 1986, was ignored for the most part.

The band's rapid fall from the charts, coupled with growing irritation

with George's campy public persona, quickly thrust Culture Club into the

has-been category.

Boy George's personal life also took a downward turn, marked by a split

with his lover,

Moss, the demise of Culture Club and his addiction to heroin, which he

began to flaunt in the media. In the summer of 1986, a friend overdosed in his

home. By the end of the year, the British

tabloids were reporting Boy George's own death as very likely and seemed to

be rooting for it.

After a drug arrest, George entered rehab. He then resurfaced, in 1987,

with four U.K. hits, including "Everything I Own" -- a remake of a hit by

the '70s soft-rock group Bread -- and the

title track of his first solo album, Sold. But he wasn't able to

duplicate this success in America.

In the early '90s, George joined the Hare Krishna movement and played in a

band called Jesus Loves You. In 1992, he had a minor U.K. hit with the

title track to the hit film "The Crying Game," a song that reached #15 in

the U.S. in 1993. Two years later, George released an autobiography, "Take

It Like A Man," and did the media rounds to promote it, speaking candidly

about his once-closeted homosexuality and his tempestuous relationship with

Moss. George's album from that year, Cheapness and

Beauty, sold fairly well in the U.K. and received some decent

reviews.

After laying low for a while, George contributed the title

track to the 1998 film "Welcome to Woop Woop." He also was seen on the

Culture Club segment of cable channel VH1's "Behind the Music," saying he

hoped to talk to estranged ex-lover Moss at some point, but that he

doubted Moss would agree to it. It was a bit of a surprise, then, when

Culture Club -- featuring all four original members -- announced a summer

reunion

tour during which they'd be paired with fellow '80s acts the Human

League and Howard Jones.

Other birthdays: Rod Argent (Argent/Zombies), 53; Jimmy Lea (Slade), 46;

Chris DeGarmo (Queensryche), 35; and Mike Scaccia (Revolting Cocks), 33.