Deon Estus, bassist for both Wham! and George Michael, has died aged 65. No cause of death has been revealed as of yet.
Announcing the news on Twitter, a representative on Estus's page wrote yesterday (October 11): “It is with real sadness I post that Deon Estus passed away this morning. Deon was mostly known as the third member of Wham! Deon was passionate about music and loved interacting with his loyal fans.”
It is with real sadness I post that Deon Estus passed away This Morning. Deon was mostly known as the third member of Wham! Deon was passionate about music and loved interacting with his loyal fans.#onlyloveisreal @billboard @RollingStone @BBCBreaking pic.twitter.com/uGje66JDTaOctober 11, 2021
In a tribute post to Estus on Facebook, his partner Brenda Kaye Pierce wrote: “My dearest, closest partner and significant other of four years transitioned and all I can remember is our last conversation the day before. My heart will need time to heal. RIP Deon. Love you forever.”
Born in Detroit on July 4, 1956, Deon Estus was taught to play bass guitar by legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson, before joining R&B band Brainstorm as a teenager, with whom he scored a hit with 1979's Popcorn.
Estus's bass playing soon captured the attention of Marvin Gaye, who asked him to perform on what became his final album, 1982's Midnight Love. Estus ultimately turned down the opportunity due to other commitments, but later regretted his decision following Gaye's death in 1984.
“That was a time when I was busy recording,” he told the Observer–Reporter in 1989. “I didn't have any idea he'd be leaving us so fast. I thought I'd see him again.”
After moving to Europe in the early '80s, and living in both Belgium and Ireland, Estus settled in England, where he landed a position playing bass in Wham!
He appeared on both of the band's studio records, 1983's Fantastic and 1984's Make It Big, before following George Michael into his solo career and lending his bass guitar skills to his first two albums, Faith and Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1.
“[Me and George] understand each other,” Estus told the Observer–Reporter. “We get along, we go out and have dinner. It's very easy to sit down and come up with a song. We just sit down and write good music. He's very professional and so am I. He's not in competition with me.”
In 1989, Estus released his first and only solo album, Spell, which spawned tracks including Me or the Rumours and Heaven Help Me, the latter of which reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 after its release.
Several musicians have paid tribute to the late bass player following his passing, including Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet, who writes: “Farewell my friend, Mr Club Tropicana. His bass playing helped create the sound of the '80s. A brilliant talent. RIP Deon.”
Farewell my friend @DeonEstus Mr Club Tropicana…His bass playing helped create the sound of the 80s….A brilliant talent…..RIP Deon pic.twitter.com/nozBgQ0v8HOctober 12, 2021