Chart-topping pop singer George Michael dies at age 53.
Superstar ’80s musician George Michael died Sunday at the age of 53 of heart failure, according to his manager.
The smooth-voiced singer of such hits as “Careless Whisper” and “Last Christmas,” the BBC reported, died over Christmas weekend at his home at Goring in the English county of Oxfordshire.
“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 family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage,” publicist Connie Filippello said in a statement issued to multiple news outlets.
According to The Associated Press, manager Michael Lippman said the death was the result of heart failure.
The police issued a statement earlier declining to specify a cause of death, saying only that it was “unexplained but not suspicious” and “a post mortem will be undertaken in due course.”
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in London, Mr. Michael became famous as the frontman of the duo Wham! with partner Andrew Ridgeley. The pair had a string of No. 1 hits in the mid-1980s including “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and “Everything She Wants.”
On Sunday, Mr. Ridgeley tweeted about Mr. Michael using a Greek nickname for “Georgios” and saying that he was “heartbroken at the death of my beloved Yog. Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved.”
After Wham! broke up, Mr. Michael went on to even more success as a solo act, topping the charts with songs including “Faith,” “Father Figure” and his remake duet with Elton John of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
“I am in deep shock,” Mr. John wrote on Instagram. “I have lost a beloved friend — the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans.”
All told, Mr. Michael hit No. 1 on the U.S. chart 10 times, topped the British chart 11 times and sold more than 100 million records worldwide.
Though it was widely believed from the start of his success that he was gay, Mr. Michael did not come out of the closet until the late 1990s.
In 1998, he was arrested on charges of cruising for anonymous sex in a men’s room in Beverly Hills. In 1999, he told The Advocate that it was “falling in love with a man that ended” his conflicted bisexuality.
Ironically, one of his first brushes with controversy was over the heterosexual solo hit “I Want Your Sex” in 1987. The explicit lyrics (“not everybody does it, but everybody should”) and risque video (the first shot is of a woman in black underwear) caused many radio stations, along with MTV, to refuse to play it or restrict it to certain hours. The video also features a shirtless Mr. Michael writing “explore” and “monogamy” in lipstick on the back of girlfriend Kathy Jeung.
Mr. Michael had a history of health problems, including a 2011 bout with pneumonia that put him in a coma and resulted in a tracheotomy. Mr. Michael said afterward that his survival was “touch and go.”
He also had several convictions for drug possession and driving under the influence, which culminated in a four-week jail sentence in 2010.
A documentary was planned for release about Mr. Michael’s career, with the singer narrating it. The tentative working title was “Freedom: George Michael,” after a title he used for two songs, one with Wham! in 1986 and one as a solo act in 1990.