George Michael Dead at 53
George Michael has died at the age of 53.
The former Wham! frontman passed away peacefully in his sleep on Christmas Day at his Oxfordshire home in England, his publicist has confirmed.
“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,” a statement reads. “The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage.”
According to the BBC, Thames Valley Police confirmed South Central Ambulance Service attended a property in Goring in Oxfordshire just before 2 p.m. local time on Sunday.
The singer’s “devastated” manager, Michael Lippman, has since revealed the star’s cause of death was heart failure, but results of an autopsy have yet to be released.
Lippman confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Michael’s death.
Early tributes came from Madonna, Sir Elton John and Michael’s former Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, who tweeted: “Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog. Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved.”
John added: “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all of his fans.”
And Madonna can’t wait for a year that claimed the lives of David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen to end, tweeting: “Farewell My Friend! Another Great Artist leaves us. Can 2016 F**k Off NOW?”
Christmas Day tributes also poured in from Mark Ronson, Ellen DeGeneres, James Corden, Duran Duran, Bryan Adams, and Lindsay Lohan, who took to Instagram and wrote: “My love. My spirit and my heart is with you and your loved ones. In your beautiful words – ‘I think you’re amazing’. You’re my friend for saying you would sing at my wedding… we will speak through our prayers always – i have you as an angel above. I love you darling. Thank you for inspiring so many true people.”
Meanwhile, Robbie Williams summed up the shock of many by tweeting: “Oh God no… I love you George… Rest In Peace.”
George Michael, real name Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, shot to fame in the early 1980s with the pop group Wham!, who became the first western act to perform in China, before embarking on a successful solo career and scoring hits with songs like “Careless Whisper,” “Faith,” and “I Want Your Sex.”
The singer’s personal life grabbed headlines in April 1998, when he was arrested for engaging in a lewd act in a public restroom of a Los Angeles park. Michael was arrested by an undercover police officer and later told MTV, “I got followed into the restroom and then this cop – I didn’t know it was a cop, obviously – he started playing this game, which I think is called, ‘I’ll show you mine, you show me yours, and then when you show me yours, I’m going to nick (arrest) you!'”
He pleaded no contest to the charge and was fined and sentenced to community service. The scandal ended years of speculation about the star’s sexuality. He mocked his arrest in the video for his single “Outside,” in which two men dressed as police officers were featured kissing.
In July 2006, Michael was again accused of engaging in anonymous public sex, this time on Hampstead Heath in London. Five months later the singer was arrested for possession of drugs, cautioned and released.
He also pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence of drugs the following year. He was banned from driving for two years, and sentenced to community service. Michael later confessed during a radio interview that his cannabis use had become a problem.
In September 2008, Michael was arrested in a public toilet in the Hampstead Heath area of London for possession of drugs. He was cautioned for controlled substance possession.
In July 2010, he was arrested on suspicion of being unfit to drive again and a month later he was charged with possession of cannabis and with driving while unfit through drink or drugs. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve eight weeks in prison and banned from driving for five years.
Michael was released from Highpoint Prison in Suffolk on October 11, 2010, after serving four weeks behind bars.
His health has been a talking a point since 2011, when he canceled a performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall due to a viral infection. He also pulled out of a show in Austria, and was admitted to a Vienna hospital after complaining of chest pains.
He spent weeks in the hospital battling pneumonia, prompting him to cancel and postpone a number of performances. He was discharged in December 2011, and two days before Christmas he announced the staff at the Vienna General Hospital had saved his life during a press conference, revealing he had undergone a tracheotomy.
In May 2013, Michael sustained a head injury when he fell from his moving car on a motorway, near St Albans in Hertfordshire, England. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital.
George Michael was showered with major accolades throughout his career – these included two Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, three American Music Awards, and four MTV Video Music Awards.