by Dana Cooper | photos: Shutterstock
If, like me, you are a child of the ‘80s, it’s doubtful you’ve missed out on the soulful strains of George O’Dowd, better known to the rest of the world as Boy George.
My first boombox, a gift from my dad in 1984, came with a cassette I had been requesting: Culture Club’s “Colour By Numbers.” By then, the Boy George-led quartet had dominated pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and the album’s smash-success single “Karma Chameleon” was fresh off an extended stay at number one, according to Billboard’s archives (a fact supported by my excellent memory of ‘80s music, thank you very much).
The multitalented artist has been delivering his unique brand of performance since the late 1970s, first performing with Bow Wow Wow (“I Want Candy”) as Lieutenant Lush before joining forces with Jon Moss (drums), Mikey Craig (bass) and Roy Hay (guitars) to form Culture Club. Apart from “Karma Chameleon,” the band also had success with Billboard top-ten songs “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” and “Miss Me Blind.” Clearly, they had a good thing going.
What hasn’t been so clear is the singer’s take on his own sexuality. For years, his trademark was giving glib answers to throw curious interviewers off his trail, including the oft-referenced line about preferring tea to sex. (“Sex? I’d rather have a cup of tea.”) Eventually, however, he went public with his identity as a gay man, recently describing himself as “militantly gay” in a 2006 documentary. Tales of his relationships are sprinkled throughout his two autobiographies – “Take It Like A Man,” written in 1995, and “Straight,” which was published ten years later in 2005.
The books also discuss the singer’s early life and career, as well as darker times, including struggles with substance abuse and his subsequent recovery after discovering Buddhism and a macrobiotic diet. Adding ‘culinary expert’ to his ever- expanding repertoire, Boy George even published a cookbook in 2001, called “Karma Cookbook: Great Tasting Dishes to Nourish Your Body and Feed Your Soul.” Is there an end to his talents?
All signs point to ‘no’. In the early 2000s, Boy George channeled his talents into a rock musical titled “Taboo,” which centered on the early ‘80s New Romantic scene (the pop culture movement following post-punk; you can count Duran Duran, The Human League, and Adam Ant in with other New Romantic artists and musicians). Recently, Boy George has had a stint as a club DJ under the moniker DJ Boy George, and he even threw his expertise behind a record label, More Protein, which features other electronic dance music (EDM) artists.
And just when you thought he couldn’t possibly pick up any other accolades, the man has even been a fashion designer (B-Rude is the name of his line) and modeled for Christian Dior as recently as last year.
Today, Boy George is one of four celebrity judges on The Voice Australia, and he has appeared in episodes of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” where he was a houseguest and PR client of one of the show’s stars. Oh – if you’re a social media buff and Boy George fan, he’s very active on Twitter and Instagram.
For those of us who are fans of his signature sound, there’s good news on the horizon: Boy George was signed to BMG Records in 2017, his first major record deal in almost 30 years. In an interview with the UK’s Daily Mail, he said, “‘I think these things happen because they’re meant to happen. I feel like if I look at my career, I do believe the world is a reflection of how you feel at the time, and it’s a mirror of where you are.” Currently, plans are in the works for not only a new album, but also a residency in Las Vegas, according to a Gay Times interview with former American Idol star Adam Lambert.
Music fans everywhere are rejoicing, including this massive Culture Club fan, who will be front and center when Boy George graces the stage in Memphis this July. I can’t promise the glamtastic makeup still looks good on my aging skin, but I guarantee you it looks phenomenal on his.
Boy George and Culture Club will be performing with the B-52s during the Memphis Botanic Garden’s Live at the Garden series on Friday, July 13. For ticket information, visit ticketmaster.com or call 901.529.8869.