Andrew Ridgeley looks back at George Michael

NEW YORK (AP) — Long before he was a music icon in skintight jeans, leather jacket and designer stubble, George Michael was something else — awkward, chubby and insecure. He even went by the very unhip nickname Yog.

A loving portrait of a young, striving Michael is offered in a new book by his closest friend and former bandmate, Andrew Ridgeley. His "Wham! George Michael & Me" is part memoir and part monument to one of the biggest pop stars of the 1980s.

"The point of the book was really to illustrate our friendship and how it really formed," Ridgeley told The Associated Press. "It's very difficult to put it into words or really put your finger on exactly what it was that people found so attractive about Wham! But it was a lot to do with George and me and our friendship."

In the book, Ridgeley traces the rise of Wham! and key moments in the band's career, like the creation of hits like "Careless Whisper" and "Everything She Wants," their appearances at Live Aid and the time in 1985 when the band became the first Western pop group to visit China.

But while this may be Ridgely's memoir, Michael looms large and the book peters out after Wham! broke up in 1986 as Michael's star soared, almost as if the most interesting thing Ridgeley has to write about is his friend, who died on Christmas Day 2016.

The book deals with weighty subjects, like how their lives changed as tabloids stalked the pair and that during the band's life Michael realized he was gay but remained closeted. It was a business decision to stay there.

"He felt it would undermine us and our chances of success. And it was very important to both of us that Wham! was a success that we wished for," said Ridgeley. "It was tough for him. There's no doubt about that. And it caused him a great deal of discomfort."