London: British pop singer 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,” his publicist said in a statement. “The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage,” the publicist said.
Michael was due to release a documentary in 2017 after years of living as a virtual recluse in which he hit the headlines for a series of bizarre incidents linked to drugs.
He was best known for his “Club Tropicana”, “Last Christmas”, “Careless Whisper” and “Faith”.
Michael’s first solo album, “Faith”, was released in 1987. It signalled a change in style, with cover art showing Michael in a leather jacket, stubble and an earring.
“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.
Michael met Andrew Ridgeley at high school and the pair went on to form Wham! in 1981.
With their good looks, perma-tans, 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 2011, he spent several weeks in hospital in Vienna after contracting pneumonia, later saying he had been close to death.