Pop superstar George Michael dies, his publicist says

George Michael. Credit: Michael Stephens/PA Wire
George Michael. Credit: Michael Stephens/PA Wire
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Pop superstar George Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

The 53-year-old, who was set to release a documentary in 2017, rose to fame as a member of Wham!, known for their hits Club Tropicana and Last Christmas.

George Michael of Wham performing at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1985. Credit: PA/PA Wire

George Michael of Wham performing at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1985. Credit: PA/PA Wire

Michael - whose real name is Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou - sold more than 100 million albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades.

In a statement, 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.”

Michael nearly died from pneumonia in late 2011.

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.

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.

A musical great known for both his chart-topping hits and his turbulent personal life, George Michael was a giant of popular culture.

The Wham! singer and solo performer enjoyed a glittering chart career, having sold more than 100 million records including seven number one singles in the UK, with tracks such as Careless Whisper and Faith.

Michael entered a period of semi-retirement in 2008, quitting live performances and seeking a “quieter life” out of the public eye.

Michael - born Georgios Panayiotou - found fame as a teenager in the early 1980s after forming Wham! with school friend Andrew Ridgeley.

The pair enjoyed hit after hit, including Club Tropicana, Young Guns (Go For It) and Last Christmas.

But they decided to bow out at the top, pulling the plug on their partnership with a final chart-topping single The Edge Of Heaven in 1986 and triumphant Wembley shows.

Michael then embarked on a hugely successful solo career, plus occasional collaborations with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton John and Queen, after the death of Freddie Mercury.

His album Faith - which has been remastered and later released in 2010 - was a massive success in 1988.

Stars from the world of showbiz have paid tribute to the “truly brilliant” singer.

Pop stars from the former Wham! front man’s heyday were joined by more contemporary names in declaring their sadness.

Martin Fry, lead singer and songwriter with Look Of Love band ABC, said on Twitter: “Absolutely devastated to hear of the loss of @GeorgeMichael Truly brilliant talent #sad #sad #sad.”

Contemporaries Duran Duran referenced the so-called “curse of 2016” - which has seen the deaths of rock and pop behemoths David Bowie, Prince and Rick Parfitt, posted on their official Twitter account: “2016 - loss of another talented soul. All our love and sympathy to @GeorgeMichael’s family.”

While former Radio One disc jockey Tony Blackburn said: “Unbelievable, George Michael has died at the age of 53. RIP.This dreadful year goes on and on.So sad, a real talent.”