George Alan O’Dowd was born in 1961 in Eltham, Kent, England. George idolised David Bowie and Marc Bolan and frequented the London clubs which were to be the focal points of the New Romantic movement.
Eventually adopting the name Boy George, he formed a band called In Praise of Lemmings in 1981, with ex-disc jockey and bassist Mikey Craig, and guitarist John Suede.
The band was ultimately renamed Culture Club with John Suede departing in 1981 when he was replaced by Roy Hay.
Steve Levine produced the band’s first demos in the EMI studios, and their catchy blend of pop, reggae and soul soon attracted the attention of Virgin Records.
Culture Club came to the fore in 1982. George’s appeal to men and women alike was (and indeed still is) enormous. Many have likened George’s singing voice to Smokey Robinson – witness the classic track Everything I own (I Spent On Heroin).
In February 1984, Karma Chameleon reached the top of the US charts as the album Colour By Numbers hovered just behind Michael Jackson‘s Thriller on the album listings. Culture Club also won the Best British Single and Best British Group awards at the BRIT Awards.
In 1985, following a British tour, the band decided to take a break. Moss spent the year in production work, Hay formed a band called This Way Up, and Boy George immersed himself on the club scene while co-writing Passing Friend for The Beach Boys.
George made a move to TV in May 1986 when he appeared in an episode of The A-Team. That same year, the song Move Away reached #12 in the US and #7 in the UK. Their album From Luxury To Heartache also hit the Top 40 in both countries.
In July, Boy George was arrested on drug possession charges after keyboardist Michael Rudetski died of an overdose in George’s house. Addicted to heroin, George began a drug rehabilitation program. Shortly thereafter, he commenced a successful solo career and Culture Club broke up.
The following month the band appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and made their first live appearance in Britain in 14 years. Later that year the band had a Top Ten hit in the UK with I Just Wanna Be Loved.
The band went on to tour, then reunited again for a 20th-anniversary concert in 2002 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. This performance was released on DVD the following year. Culture Club then became inactive again, largely due to Boy George’s successful DJ career.
In 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 but pleaded 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.
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
In 2006, two original members of Culture Club (Craig and Moss), tried to launch a new tour with another lead singer (Sam Butcher) as Boy George and Roy Hay had declined to tour. George expressed his displeasure in the press.
A UK tour was announced for December 2006 but was postponed to give the new line-up time to finish recording their album. In 2007, band manager Tony Gordon said that the project was “on hold” while drummer Jon Moss stated that the project was shelved.
On 5 December 2008, Boy George was convicted in London of assault and false imprisonment of a man called Audun Carlsen. On 16 January 2009, he was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment for this offence. Initially sent to Pentonville prison in London, he was later transferred to HMP Edmunds Hill in Newmarket, Suffolk (a category C prison).