George Michael, the British pop superstar who reached early fame with WHAM! and went on to a solo career lined with controversies and chart-topping hits that blended soul and dance music with daring social and personal commentary, has died, his publicist said Sunday. He was 53.
George Michael cause of death:
Michael died at his home in Goring, England. His publicist, Cindi Berger, said he had not been ill. Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, says the cause of death was heart failure. His family issued a statement through Thames Valley Police saying that he “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.”
Before Lippmann’s announcement, police issued a statement calling the death “unexplained but not suspicious” and that “a post mortem will be undertaken in due course.”
The loss of Michael continues a year of grief in the music industry, with David Bowie, Prince and Glenn Frey among those dying before age 70.
One of the giants of `80s and `90s music, and an early idol for the MTV generation, Michael enjoyed immense popularity from the start with hits such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Young Guns (Go For It)” and “Freedom.” As a solo artist, he developed into a more serious singer and songwriter, lauded by critics for his powerful vocal and expressive range. He sold well over 100 million albums globally, earned numerous Grammy and American Music Awards, and recorded duets with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti and Elton John among others.
Also read | Singer George Michael passes away
“I have lost a beloved friend _ the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist,” Elton John wrote on Instagram.
“Farewell My Friend! … Another Great Artist leaves us.” _ Madonna, on Twitter.
Farewell My Friend! 🙏🏻 Another Great Artist leaves us. 💔Can 2016 Fuck Off NOW? pic.twitter.com/aEGIUNSJbt
— Madonna (@Madonna) December 26, 2016
“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. A xx” _ Michael’s Wham! groupmate Andrew Ridgeley on Twitter. Yog stands for “Yours Only George.”
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. A xx https://t.co/OlGTm4D9O6
— Andrew Ridgeley (@ajridgeley) December 26, 2016
“My heart, like yours, is broken. George Michael was a musical genius and I am so grateful to have known him. In a world that needs music more than ever, today it is less so.” _ Liza Minnelli, on Facebook.
“I’ve loved George Michael for as long as I can remember. He was an absolute inspiration. Always ahead of his time.” _ James Corden, actor, comedian and host of Carpool Karaoke, on Twitter.
“Absolutely devastated to hear of the loss of (at)GeorgeMichael Truly brilliant talent (hash)sad (hash)sad (hash)sad” _ from Twitter account for Martin Fry of band ABC.
“This is so crazy. I was just at his house the morning of the 23rd. So crazy.” _ producer-musician Nile Rodgers, on Twitter.
Heartbroken at the loss of one of my oldest friends. I will never forget the fun times we had together. Rest in Peace George, I’ll miss you💔 pic.twitter.com/HkJpvapLKy
— Sara Dallin (@SaraBananarama) December 26, 2016
“Can’t believe George Michael has passed … one of the greatest singers and writers the UK ever produced. I’m really saddened … a lovely man.” _ singer Howard Jones, on Twitter.
Other than a global pop phenom, George Michael was one of the true British soul greats. A lot of us owe him an unpayable debt. bye George xx” _ producer-musician Mark Ronson, on Twitter.
“I met George Michael a few times & he was ever a gentle, unassuming soul. A rare presence in a world full of self. Honest, genuine talent.” _ singer-songwriter Alison Moyet, on Twitter.
“It’s hard to take in. One of our most talented singer songwriters has left us. RIP George Michael. Such sad, tragic news. 2016 please end.” _ pop group Simply Red, on Twitter.
He reached the very heights of success, but agonized over being a celebrity. He spoke of cutting back on tours and interviews and letting his work speak for itself. One aging superstar thought he was behaving like a fool: In a public letter dated Sept. 9, 1990, Frank Sinatra advised Michael to “loosen up” and “swing, man.”
“The tragedy of fame is when no one shows up and you’re singing to the cleaning lady in some empty joint that hasn’t seen a paying customer since Saint Swithin’s day,” Sinatra wrote.
Michael, with tailored good looks and an easy stage manner, formed the duo WHAM! with his school friend Andrew Ridgeley in the early 1980s. Helped by MTV, founded around the same time, easily crossed the Atlantic to become popular in the United States with Michael, as lead singer, usually the focal point.
He started his solo career shortly before WHAM! split, with the release of the megahit single “Careless Whisper,” making a seamless transition. Critics generally viewed his WHAM! songs as catchy but disposable pop and gave his solo efforts far higher marks.
Throughout his career, his drug use and taste for risky sex brought him into frequent brushes with the law, most famously in 1998 when he was arrested for public lewdness in Los Angeles. Yet, he managed to turn the incident into fodder for a popular song that poked fun at his behavior, and his acknowledgment of his homosexuality at that time made him even more popular with his fans.