British singer George Michael dies of suspected heart failure
Police say no suspicious circumstances surrounding 53-year-old singer’s death
Pop superstar George Michael’s death at the age of 53 from suspected heart failure is being treated by police as “unexplained but not suspicious”.
Michael, who rose to fame as the front man of Wham! and had chart-topping hits including Last Christmas, died peacefully at home, his publicist said.
The cause of the star’s death was heart failure, according to his manager Michael Lippman. Michael - whose real name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou - sold more than 100 million albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades.
Big names from the world of entertainment paid tribute after hearing about his death, which comes in a year that has seen the music industry lose some of its biggest stars including Prince, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen.
Sir Elton John posted a photograph of himself and Michael on Instagram, writing: “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 and all of his fans.”
Michael’s former Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley said he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog”, an affectionate nickname used for the star. He said: “Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. A xx”
Madonna paid her own tribute, posting an undated video on Twitter in which she embraced Michael on stage. In it she tells the audience: “He’s a great songwriter and he makes very classy videos, like me.”
Referencing several of his best known lyrics, she adds: “George, I want your sex, so be my father figure and I will have faith if we have to live hand-to-mouth. The diva himself.”
Michael formed Wham! with Ridgeley in 1981, and went on to massive success, releasing a string of hit singles including Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do), Club Tropicana, Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, and Last Christmas.
They were the first Western pop act to visit China when they played there in 1985, before splitting in 1986, by which time Michael had already released a handful of solo singles.
On Sunday night, Thames Valley Police said they were called to a property in Goring-on-Thames shortly before 2pm, adding: “Sadly, a 53-year-old man was confirmed deceased at the scene.
“At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A postmortem will be undertaken in due course. There will be no further updates from Thames Valley Police until the post-mortem has taken place.”
The star’s publicist said: “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.”
As well as being known for his talents, Michael had a turbulent personal life, as brushes with the law and tales of drug use saw him hit the headlines. He nearly died from pneumonia in late 2011, and after receiving treatment in a Vienna hospital, he made a tearful appearance outside his London home and said it had been ”touch and go” whether he lived.
Doctors had performed a tracheotomy to keep his airways open and he was unconscious for some of his spell in hospital.
Best known for singing Last Christmas with the pop group Wham! the 53-year-old, from East Finchley in London, rose to fame in the early 1980s when he founded the group with Andrew Ridgeley.
Their first album, Fantastic, made UK number one after it was released in 1983, as did their second album, Make It Big, the following year.
In 1986 the group released Music From The Edge of Heaven.
Wham! also found success with a number of singles between 1982-1986, most notably the hit festive track, Last Christmas, in 1984.
The song was re-released in 1985, 1986 and then every year from 2007.
Michael fully established his solo career in 1987, jumping straight to number one again with his first studio album, Faith.
This was followed by Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in 1990, Older in 1996, Songs From The Last Century in 1999 and Patience in 2004.
All of his albums reached top spot in the charts, with the exception of Songs From The Last Century, which claimed the position twice.
His first solo single, Careless Whisper, made number one across the globe after its release in 1984.
Other famous solo singles include Faith in 1987, Father Figure and Kissing A Fool in 1988, Freedom! ‘90 in 1990, Cowboys And Angels in 1991, Round Here in 2004, True Faith in 2011 and Let Her Down Easy just two years ago.
Meanwhile, Michael’s 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 had been set to be reissued accompanied by a new film featuring Stevie Wonder, Elton John and the supermodels who starred in the video to his hit single Freedom! ‘90.
The movie, with the working title Freedom: George Michael, was to be narrated by Michael and set to feature Mark Ronson, Mary J Blige, Tony Bennett, Liam Gallagher, James Corden and Ricky Gervais.
The record was his second solo album, after the hugely successful Faith, and was arranged produced and almost entirely written by Michael, but did not feature him on the album cover.
It featured hits including Cowboys And Angels, Mother’s Pride and Praying For Time and outsold Faith in the UK, where it went platinum four times but led to a court case with US record label Sony about Michael’s frustration over how the album has been marketed. Michael lost the case.