The CBS host took a few minutes at the top of his show to speak about what Michael’s music meant to him growing up.
“I feel like I’ve loved George Michael as long as I’ve loved music in a way, and I know so many of his fans feel the same,” Corden said. “I can remember so many specific times in my life where I might have felt on my own, and George’s music would feel like… he’d reach his hand out and tell you that you weren’t on your own and that these feelings were not particular to you.”
He then transitioned into a story about the birth of what would eventually become Carpool Karaoke. As seen in the clip above (beginning at the 3:17 mark), Michael was technically Corden’s first Karaoke participant, agreeing to appear alongside the then-British sitcom star in a sketch for the U.K.’s Red Nose Day telethon back in 2011. As Corden recalled, he first reached out to Michael’s label about doing the sketch, which resulted in a middle-of-the-night phone call from the “Faith” singer himself.
“It was the weirdest feeling going to bed thinking, when I wake up, it’s going to be because George Michael is on the phone and I’m going to talk to him about this sketch,” he said, with a laugh. “We chatted for an hour, and we chatted about music, and I felt very privileged to be able to tell him how much his music meant to me.”
Corden then explained how Michael was the key to snagging his first official Carpool Karaoke partner, Mariah Carey:
“When we started the show here, we were trying to get people to do Carpool Karaoke and not many artists wanted to do it,” he said. “We would send them this clip of me and George, and we sent it to Mariah Carey and she was the first person to say yes, and her words were, ‘If it’s good enough for George, then it’s good enough for me. I’ll do it.'”
Press PLAY on the clip above to hear Corden’s tribute in full, then sound off below.