Singer George Michael has died at the age of 53.
The pop superstar, who rose to fame in the 1980s as a member of two-piece group Wham! before establishing himself as one of the most influential solo artists of his time, “passed away peacefully” on Christmas Day in Oxfordshire, according to his publicist.
His former Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley and friend Elton John were among the first to respond to the news.
Ridgeley, writing on Twitter, said he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend…” while Elton John issued a statement on Instagram saying: “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.”
George Michael became a household name in the early 1980s as one half of pop duet Wham! who between 1981 and 1986 sold more than 25 million records and had a number of enduring hits including Last Christmas, Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go and Club Tropicana.
He went solo in 1987 with chart-topping album Faith, quickly establishing himself as one of the most important British pop artists of the late 20th Century. The singer most played on British radio between 1984 and 2004, George Michael had seven number one singles in the UK and eight number ones on the US Billboard Hot 100 – including timeless classics such as Careless Whisper and Freedom! ’90.
Throughout a stellar musical career in which he sold almost 100 million records, George Michael picked up almost every industry accolade available, including three Brit Awards, two Grammys, four Ivor Novello Awards and three American Music Awards.
He was set to release a documentary film about his life in 2017.
In a statement, George Michael’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.”