Why did Wham! break up? Everything we know about the iconic band's split

A Netflix documentary about the band has piqued interest in their split

Why did Wham! break up as illustrated by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley performing as Wham!
(Image credit: Netflix/Future)

Why did Wham! break up? A new documentary about the iconic duo has piqued viewer interest in why the pair went their separate ways.

In 1982, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley set out to storm the music business. They succeeded in dominating the charts around the world, with their timeless classics still sung in countless households to this day - is Christmas even Christmas if the pair's Last Christmas isn't belted out yearly at the top of your lungs? Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Freedom, remain enduring karaoke classics in pubs up and down the country.

The Netflix documentary - also entitled Wham! - captures George and Andrew's time together, with never-before-seen footage and previously unheard interviews. While the show documents their lives from friends to megastars, a lot of viewers have been wondering why it all came to an end, and why Wham! split up - read on to find out. 

Why did Wham! break up?

Wham! reportedly broke up due to George Michael wanting to creatively move in a different direction, and target a more adult audience.

Although Michael didn't officially quit the band or ever reveal he instigated the split, it is widely thought he was responsible for the band's demise. Ridgeley is thought to have supported the decision due to jealousy over the level of fan attention Michael received in comparison to himself.

At the time, Michael was quoted to have said he wanted to "Write to more honest emotions in his records, creating songs that people could personally relate to," as well as target an older audience - Wham! predominantly had a heavily teen-based audience throughout their chart-topping reign.

According to Digital Spy, Ridgeley maintains the duo didn't officially split, but simply "Brought Wham! to a close in a manner of our own choosing". He does however admit that he did feel slightly inferior to Michael, adding that the now sadly deceased singer was "one of the finest, if not the finest, singing voices of his generation".

The new Netflix documentary on 1980's icons Wham! is on Netflix now

(Image credit: Netflix)

When did Wham! split up?

Wham! split up in 1986, and both Michael and Ridgeley were still just 23-years-old at the time.

The duo's final song The Edge of Heaven, was released in 1986, shooting to No. 1 in the UK chart and landing a place in the US top 10. This was followed by a farewell concert at Wembley named The Final, which took place on June 28, 1986. The band had been together for just four years.

Published in the foreword of The Final's programme, Michael wrote to fans in attendance "Whatever else, it will represent the end of four years of something most people don’t believe in. A dream come true. It’s a cliché, but I can’t think of a better way to describe what has happened to Andrew and me since the beginning of 1982."

He added "Someone or something has been smiling on us over these four years, and sometimes I feel it all happened almost too fast, too quickly. There hasn’t really been time to appreciate or savour things. "If I sound like I’m complaining, please don’t get me wrong. I still can’t believe my luck. I just wish I could do it again, in slow motion, to take it all in. Because something’s telling me that whatever lies ahead, nothing will mean as much to me as this group has." 

Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael in Wham!

(Image credit: Netflix)

Wham backing singers

Wham!'s backing singers were Helen "Pepsi" DeMacque and Shirlie Holliman, who went on to form their own band, Pepsi & Shirlie.

Speaking to the Guardian, Shirlie said "Mine and Pepsi’s friendship began in 1982. We were looking for a new girl to join Wham! and one day George said 'OK! There’s this girl called Pepsi! My first thought was 'She’s called Pepsi? Well, she’s got to be fun.'"

"When I arrived at Finsbury Park station to collect her, I was secretly pleased she wasn’t glamorous or girly. We got into my car and I asked what her voice was like. She handed me a cassette tape. 'You sound like Shirley Bassey!' I said. She replied 'I’m such a big Bassey fan! 'Any tension immediately melted away."

Pepsi and Shirlie split in 1991, coming back together for various reunions in the years since. Their most successful hit was their debut single Heartache, which reached No. 2 in the UK charts.

Shirlie Kemp and Helen DeMacque.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Who is Shirlie from Wham! married to?

Shirlie is married Martin Kemp, who found fame with band Spandau Ballet, and later as an actor in Eastenders.

Although never an official member of Wham!, Shirlie was a regular member of their backing crew for the time they were together. She married Martin Kemp in 1988 and the couple welcomed daughter Harley Moon in 1989, and son Roman in 1993.

She stepped away from regular performing following the birth of Harley, and spent time supporting Martin through two brain tumours. In a documentary entitled Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency, it was revealed that son Roman had previously come close to attempting suicide after a 13-year battle with depression.

Lewis Capaldi made an emotional Glastonbury appearance recently, just after his documentary How I'm Feeling Now also left viewers worried for his wellbeing. Ed Sheeran's documentary The Sum of It All gives a similar unflinching insight into the singer's life. Meanwhile, the At Home With The Furys release date has been revealed - and it's set to star Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae Hague alongside two-time heavyweight champion Tyson.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.