Andrew John Ridgeley is an English pop singer, guitarist, song writer and environmentalist. He came to public attention as a member of 1980s pop music duo Wham! along with George Michael.
Andrew was born in Windlesham, Surrey, England on January 26, 1963 to Jennifer John (née Dunlop) and Alberto Mario Zacharia (who later changed his surname to Ridgeley). His mother was of English and Scottish descent and his father was of Italian and Egyptian descent. Ridgeley grew up in Bushey, Hertfordshire, and attended Bushey Meads School. His mother was a schoolteacher at Bushey Heath Primary School while his father worked for Canon. Andrew has a younger brother, session drummer Paul Ridgeley. When George Michael started school at Bushey Meads, Andrew volunteered to take him under his wing.
Their common musical interests led them to form Wham! in 1981. After going around to various record companies with a homemade tape (which took ten minutes to record in Andrew's living room), they eventually found a record label willing to sign them, Innervision.
Innervision, however, had a trick up its sleeve: it forced Wham! to sign an unfair contract, which Andrew, backed by George, later challenged legally. The resulting legal victory for Wham! led to Innervision's bankruptcy and the dissolution of the company.
Wham! went on to enjoy huge worldwide success in the mid-1980s, making their US debut appearance on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand".
In 1984, Ridgeley underwent surgery to have his septum straightened to improve his breathing after having broken his nose as a child. After photos were published in British newspapers showing Ridgeley's bandaged face, Wham!'s manager, Simon Napier-Bell, fabricated a story that the bandages were the result of Ridgeley having been hit in the nose in a nightclub. After days of tabloid headlines, the true reason was revealed.
In 1984, Wham! charted two U.K. No. 1 singles, and were competing that year with pop rivals Duran Duran to be Britain's biggest pop act. Toward this end, Napier-Bell devised a publicity scheme that he believed would turn them into major international stars: In April 1985, he took Wham! to China for a 10-day visit. They gained huge worldwide media attention when Wham! became the first Western pop group to play in China, first in Hong Kong for two warm-up shows, then a show in Beijing in front of 15,000 people at the Worker's Gymnasium, and finally, one show in Canton. The visit was recorded for a documentary film titled Wham! in China: Foreign Skies. In 1985, Ridgeley performed at the Live Aid charity concert with other backing singers, while Michael performed with Elton John.
By 1985, Ridgeley had developed a reputation in the tabloid press as a drunken party animal at nightclubs. The British tabloids referred to him as "Animal Andy" and "Randy Andy". He was ordered to leave the official party at the end of the Live Aid concert in 1985 for his unruly behavior.
In 1986, "The Edge of Heaven" became Wham!'s fourth and final U.K. No. 1 single. With Michael keen to move into a more adult market, the duo decided to end Wham! after a farewell concert dubbed "The Final" in front of 72,000 people at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, 28 June 1986.
Shortly after Wham! ended, Ridgeley moved to Monaco and tried his hand at Formula Three motor racing. Meeting with little success, he moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career in acting. He returned to Britain permanently in 1990.
CBS Records (later Sony Music), having taken up the option on Wham!'s contract that specified solo albums from Michael and Ridgeley, released a guitar- and drum-driven solo recording from Ridgeley, Son of Albert, in 1990. His brother Paul, an occasional percussionist for Bananarama, played drums on the album. The first single from the album was "Shake"; it reached No. 16 on the Australian singles chart and No. 58 in the UK Singles Chart. "Shake" was the 81st highest-selling single of 1990 in Australia. The second single, "Red Dress", charted in Australia but peaked outside the top 100. Son of Albert sold poorly, failing to make the top 75 in the UK Albums Chart. It was also one of the worst received albums of 1990 among critics, achieving only half a star in a savage Rolling Stone magazine review. As a result, CBS passed on the option of a second album. Ridgeley later said, "It was disappointing and depressing to receive quite such a beating over that album."
On 27 January 1991, Ridgeley joined Michael on stage for a few songs at the encore of his Rock in Rio event at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Since 1991, Ridgeley has generally shunned publicity, but he did agree to give an on-camera interview for the first time since the split in a 2005 documentary, A Different Story, about the life of George Michael. Ridgeley also appeared as a studio guest on the first series of the BBC 2 programme Fantasy Football League in 1994.
In 2005, Ridgeley and Michael made plans to reunite as Wham! for Live 8, but Ridgeley reportedly pulled out at the last minute. In 2012, Michael dismissed rumors that they were set for a reunion to mark the 30th anniversary of their first record. Michael said that there was no truth in speculation the group would reform for a one-off concert.
Upon hearing of Michael's death on 25 December 2016, Ridgeley paid his respects on Twitter, saying, "Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog."
Ridgeley performed a cameo role in Last Christmas, a 2019 film that featured many songs by Wham!.
Since 1982, Ridgeley has reportedly amassed £10 million from sales and royalties of records. Much of his income comes from the 1984 single "Careless Whisper", which he co-wrote, and that has sold six million copies worldwide and, as of 2020, was the 37th best-selling single of all time in the United Kingdom, having sold over 1.3 million copies. Ridgeley still receives tens of thousands of pounds a year from his share of Wham! royalties as a member of the act and as a songwriter on some of the duo's songs.
After retiring from active music making, though active in music-writing under various pseudonyms, Ridgeley became a prominent environmentalist in the cause of water quality at English surfing beaches and riverways.
He had become active in surfing in the early 1990s, and while surfing with his brother Paul off the coast of England, both men contracted a waterborne illness from the raw sewage being discharged from a nearby pipe. The illness led to an interview with The Times, and Andrew became an environmental activist in the cause of water quality. Andrew is active in the UK charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).
Andrew is a partner in an English company that makes surfing goods. He frequently fronts both his name and money to help pass and enact laws against the discharge of raw sewage in UK offshore waters. Ridgeley's and SAS's efforts were hugely successful in recent years, resulting in numerous safe sewage laws enacted which have virtually eliminated E. coli illness and deaths in the UK.
Ridgeley has several times participated in the Dallaglio Cycle Slam, a charity bike ride for the Dallaglio Rugby Works, established in 2009 by former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio, which helps young people tackle life in a positive way with the help of rugby.