‘Last Christ­mas’: Tributes flow for Ge­orge Michael

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON: Tributes came from around the mu­sic world and tear­ful fans yes­ter­day af­ter Bri­tish pop su­per­star Ge­orge Michael, who rose to fame with a string of smash hits in­clud­ing “Last Christ­mas”, died aged 53. Michael died of ap­par­ent heart fail­ure on Christ­mas Day at his home in Gor­ing, a vil­lage on the River Thames in Ox­ford­shire, west of Lon­don, af­ter an award-win­ning ca­reer span­ning more than three decades.

Big names in en­ter­tain­ment like El­ton John and Madonna hailed Michael’s ta­lent and hu­man qual­i­ties, while for­mer Wham! band­mate An­drew Ridge­ley said he was “heart­bro­ken at the loss of my beloved friend”. Michael was best known for 1980s and 1990s hits like “Free­dom”, “Care­less Whis­per”, “Faith”, “I Want Your Sex” and “Wake Me Up Be­fore You Go Go”. He won a string of awards in­clud­ing two Gram­mys and three Brits, but run-ins with the law over drugs and a se­ries of bizarre in­ci­dents and health scares in his fi­nal years of­ten over­shad­owed his mu­sic.

Bri­tish pop star Ge­orge Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 mil­lion al­bums in his ca­reer, has died aged 53, his pub­li­cist said on Sun­day. "It is with great sad­ness that we can con­firm our beloved son, brother and friend Ge­orge passed away peace­fully at home over the Christ­mas pe­riod," the pub­li­cist said in a state­ment. Thames Val­ley Po­lice said the am­bu­lance ser­vice had at­tended a prop­erty in Gor­ing in Ox­ford­shire, where the singer lived, at 1342 GMT on Sun­day and a 53-year-old man was con­firmed dead at the scene.

"At this stage the death is be­ing treated as un­ex­plained but not sus­pi­cious. A post-mortem will be un­der­taken in due course," the po­lice said. Singer El­ton John pub­lished a pic­ture of him­self with Michael on his In­sta­gram ac­count. "I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend - the kin­d­est, most gen­er­ous soul and a bril­liant artist," the Bri­tish star wrote. Madonna posted a video of her­self pre­sent­ing Michael with an award and wrote: "Farewell my Friend! An­other Great Artist leaves us." Michael was due to re­lease a doc­u­men­tary in 2017 af­ter a pe­riod of liv­ing as a vir­tual recluse in which he hit the head­lines for a se­ries of bizarre in­ci­dents linked to drugs.

Ear­lier this month it was also an­nounced that pro­ducer and song­writer Naughty Boy, whose real name is Shahid Khan, was work­ing with Michael on a new al­bum for next year. Michael was best known for his 1980s hits "Last Christ­mas", "Free­dom", "Care­less Whis­per" and "Wake Me Up Be­fore You Go Go" but his ca­reer spanned more than three decades. He won a string of awards in­clud­ing two Gram­mies and three Brits. His last al­bum "Sym­phon­ica" (2014) rose to num­ber one in the charts.

'Tal­ented soul'

Many tributes to Michael re­ferred to other mu­sic world deaths in 2016, start­ing with David Bowie in Jan­uary and in­clud­ing Sta­tus Quo gui­tarist Rick Parfitt who died on Satur­day. "2016 - loss of an­other tal­ented soul. All our love and sym­pa­thy to Ge­orge Michael's fam­ily," the band Du­ran Du­ran, which were 1980s con­tem­po­raries of Wham!, said on their of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count. Re­fer­ring to him by his nick­name "Yog" (Yours Only Ge­orge), Wham! co-star An­drew Ridge­ley said he was "heart­bro­ken" by Michael's death. Cana­dian mu­si­cian Bryan Adams tweeted: "I can't be­lieve it. Such an in­cred­i­ble singer and a lovely hu­man be­ing, far too young to leave us."

Tributes poured in from out­side the mu­sic world too. Foot­ball pre­sen­ter and for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Gary Lineker tweeted: "No, not Ge­orge Michael as well. An­other mu­si­cal great leaves us this year. 2016 can just sod off." "Star Trek" ac­tor Ge­orge Takei re­ferred to some of Michael's great­est hits in a tweet, writ­ing: "Rest with the glit­ter­ing stars, Ge­orge Michael. You've found your Free­dom, your Faith. It was your Last Christ­mas, and we shall miss you."

Drug charges, health scares

Michael was born Ge­or­gios Kyr­i­a­cos Panayiotou to a Greek Cypriot fa­ther and English mother in north Lon­don in 1963. He met Ridge­ley at high school and the pair went on to form Wham! in 1981. With their good looks, per­matans, high­lighted hair and he­do­nis­tic im­age, the duo cap­tured the go-get­ting spirit of the age and fast be­came one of Bri­tain's big­gest pop acts. In 1985, Wham! be­came the first Western pop band to per­form in China as the coun­try was slowly be­gin­ning to open up to the out­side world un­der re­formist leader Deng Xiaop­ing.

Fol­low­ing years of spec­u­la­tion over his sex­u­al­ity, Michael came out as gay in 1998 af­ter be­ing ar­rested for com­mit­ting a lewd act in the pub­lic toi­let of a Los An­ge­les park. It was the first of sev­eral in­ci­dents that were to over­shadow his mu­si­cal ca­reer in his later years. He notched up po­lice cau­tions for cannabis and crack co­caine pos­ses­sion and in 2010 was sen­tenced to eight weeks in jail af­ter crash­ing his car into a Lon­don shop while un­der the in­flu­ence of cannabis and pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion. In 2011, he spent sev­eral weeks in hos­pi­tal in Vi­enna af­ter con­tract­ing pneu­mo­nia, later say­ing that he had been close to death. There were fresh con­cerns in 2013 when he had to be air­lifted to hos­pi­tal af­ter fall­ing out of his chauf­feur-driven Range Rover as it trav­elled at high speed on a mo­tor­way. — AFP

— AFP

PARIS: This file photo taken on Sept 9, 2012 shows Bri­tish singer Ge­orge Michael per­form­ing on­stage dur­ing a char­ity gala for the ben­e­fit of Si­dac­tion at the Opera Garnier.

In this July 13, 1985, file photo, from left, Ge­orge Michael of Wham!, con­cert pro­moter Har­vey Gold­smith, Bono of U2, Paul McCart­ney, con­cert or­ga­nizer Bob Geldof and Fred­die Mer­cury of Queen join in the fi­nale of the Live Aid famine re­lief con­cert, at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium, Lon­don.

In this Satur­day, July 2, 2005 file photo, Bri­tish singer Ge­orge Michael ac­com­pa­nied by other mu­si­cians and chil­dren from Africa wave to the crowds good­bye at the fi­nale the Live 8 con­cert in Hyde Park, Lon­don.

In this Sept 9, 2012 file photo, Bri­tish singer Ge­orge Michael per­forms at a con­cert to raise money for the AIDS char­ity Si­dac­tion, dur­ing the Sym­phon­ica tour at Palais Garnier Opera house in Paris, France. — AP/AFP pho­tos

In this Mon­day, Oct 18, 1993, file photo, pop star Ge­orge Michael, 30, out­side the Royal Courts of Jus­tice in Lon­don at the start of his court ac­tion against Sony Mu­sic En­ter­tain­ment (UK) Ltd.

In this April 10, 1997, file photo, Ge­orge Michael, left, and Ste­vie Won­der per­form ‘Liv­ing for the City’ at the ‘4th an­nual VH1 Hon­ors’ in Uni­ver­sal City, Calif.

In this July 21, 2008, file photo, mu­si­cian Ge­orge Michael per­forms in con­cert at Madi­son Square Gar­den in New York.

In this Mon­day, Jan 31, 1989 file photo, Ge­orge Michael ac­cepts one of his three Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards dur­ing cer­e­monies in Los An­ge­les.

In this Mon­day, Dec 1, 2008 file photo, Ge­orge Michael per­forms at the Zayed Sports City Sta­dium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emi­rates, on the last stop of his 25 Live tour.

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