Deon Estus, bassist for Wham! and George Michael, dies at 65
Deon Estus, the bassist and singer known for his work with George Michael and Wham!, died Monday at age 65. A cause of death wasn't disclosed.
Estus' death was announced through a post on his Twitter account on Monday. "It is with real sadness I post that Deon Estus passed away this morning," the post reads. "Deon was mostly known as the third member of Wham! Deon was passionate about music and loved interacting with his loyal fans."
Estus was born Jeffery Deon Estus in Detroit in 1956, and was introduced to music at an early age by his parents, both of whom held graduate degrees in music. He learned to play drums, guitar, and piano as well as the bass guitar, and began playing professionally at age 12.
"I used to play house parties in the summer and got 20 bucks each time," Estus recalled in a 1989 interview with the Associated Press. "That was a lot of dough."
Growing up in Detroit also allowed Estus access to some of Motown's most talented musicians. He befriended and later performed with Marvin Gaye and studied bass under James Jamerson, considered one of the most influential players in history. Estus also joined the Detroit R&B group Brainstorm as a teenager, recording two albums with them and touring alongside the Brothers Johnson, among other bands.
After settling in London in the early 1980s, Estus joined Wham!, the U.K. pop duo of Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael. He played bass on such hits as "Careless Whisper" and "I'm Your Man" before the group's split in 1986, after which Estus continued collaborating with Michael. He performed on the singer's solo albums Faith and Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 and opened for Michael on the 1988-89 Faith Tour.
Estus also recorded his only solo album, Spell, in 1989, yielding the hit single "Heaven Help Me" featuring Michael on background vocals, which reached no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Estus performed with various other musicians over the years, including Tina Turner, Elton John, George Clinton, and Annie Lennox. But he remained best known for his work with Michael, whom he called "a beautiful person and a great friend." After the singer's death in 2016, Estus told Billboard, "I'm still in shock. It hasn't quite hit me yet, but it helps to talk about it and to think about all those fantastic tours, all those records, all the people he's helped and all the things he's done, which is a lot. I was blessed to have known him."