Tributes paid as singer George Michael dies, aged 53

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in No

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in Norwich, Norfolk.Picture: James BassFor: EDP/ EN NEWSEDP Pics © 2007 Tel: (01603) 772434 - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2007

Pop superstar George Michael has died peacefully at home, to become the latest of a number of musicians to pass away in 2016.

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in No

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in Norwich, Norfolk.Picture: James BassFor: EDP/ EN NEWSEDP Pics © 2007 Tel: (01603) 772434 - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2007

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.

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.'

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in No

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in Norwich, Norfolk.Picture: James BassFor: EDP/ EN NEWSEDP Pics © 2007 Tel: (01603) 772434 - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2007


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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.

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Doctors had performed a tracheotomy to keep his airways open and he was unconscious for some of his spell in hospital.

His death marks what has been a tragic year for music and follows the losses of David Bowie, Prince and just yesterday, Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt.

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in No

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in Norwich, Norfolk.Picture: James BassFor: EDP/ EN NEWSEDP Pics © 2007 Tel: (01603) 772434 - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2007

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.

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in No

Singer, George Michael on stage performing at Norwich City Football Club ground at Carrow Road in Norwich, Norfolk.Picture: James BassFor: EDP/ EN NEWSEDP Pics © 2007 Tel: (01603) 772434 - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2007

Stars from the world of showbiz have paid tribute to the 'truly brilliant' George Michael, who died on Christmas Day aged 53.

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.'

This year's X Factor winner Matt Terry said: 'Noooooooooooooooo! I cannot believe this !!!! RIP George Michael'.

Matt Lucas, who worked with the singer during a sketch for BBC comedy Little Britain, said: 'Well 2016, you had to just take one more, didn't you?'

Entrepreneur and television personality Duncan Bannatyne said: 'George Michael has now been taken by the curse of 2016. Please make him the last. RIP.'

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.'

OBITUARY

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.

He carved out an international name for himself, but brushes with the law and tales of his drug use increasingly made more impact than his musical output.

The hit machine slowed, chart positions faltered and incidents of drug possession, driving offences and personal problems became the chief reasons for his occasional returns to the spotlight.

His last appearance in the top 10 was in 2004 and a Christmas single released last December climbed to just number 14 despite a devoted fanbase.

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.

But lengthy legal battles followed as he tried to free himself from a deal with record label Sony which effectively prevented new recordings (only to re-sign with them a few years later).

Things began to unravel further when, after years of refusing to be drawn on speculation about his sexuality, he was arrested in public toilets in Beverly Hills, California, in 1998 for engaging in a lewd act.

The incident forced him to disclose his homosexuality and his relationship with American Kenny Goss.

He later said his late 20s had been a very depressing time for him after he lost his partner, Anselmo Feleppa, to HIV and his mother died some time later.

He said: 'I had my very first relationship at 27 because I really had not actually come to terms with my sexuality until I was 24.

'I lost my partner to HIV then it took about three years to grieve; then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed.'

He parodied the arrest incident in the video of 1998 single Outside, which reached number two, but he struggled to reach such heights again.

He did not help his cause when his satirical take on the relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush, Shoot The Dog, was released in 2002. He was branded a 'washed-up pop pervert' by a US newspaper.

A further run-in with the law came in October 2006 when he was found slumped over the wheel of his car. The following May he pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs and was banned from driving for two years.

In 2008 Michael took a step back from the public eye but less than a month later he was once again in the glare when he was cautioned for possession of class A drugs, which included crack cocaine, and class C drugs.

In September 2010 Michael received an eight-week prison sentence following an incident the previous July in which he crashed his Range Rover into a shop in north London. He was also given a five-year driving ban after he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs and possessing cannabis.

In 2011, he officially announced the ending of a turbulent 15-year relationship with Goss - though he said that the pair had actually split around two years earlier.

In an attempt to relaunch his musical career, Michael performed a song from his new album during the closing ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Health scares dogged the last decade of his life.

Last year he publicly denied new allegations about drug-taking, describing them as 'highly inaccurate'.

The star nearly died from pneumonia in late 2011. After receiving treatment in a Vienna hospital, Michael made a tearful appearance outside his London home just before Christmas and said it had been 'touch and go' whether he lived.

Before he appeared, he arranged for an assistant to bring out a plate of mince pies for the waiting media gathered outside.

It triggered a period of major anxiety which caused Michael to cancel his forthcoming Australian tour, and the singer later called it 'basically by far the worst month of my life'.

Michael said he had been lucky to have become ill close to a hospital with suitable specialists, adding: 'I have to believe that somebody thinks I've still got some work to do here.'

But he was to return to hospital just 18 months later with a head head injury following a bizarre incident on the M1 motorway when he fell from his vehicle on to the tarmac.

Michael had been looking to the future shortly before his death, with a documentary film entitled Freedom due for release next March.

He died peacefully at his home over the festive period, the star's publicist announced on Christmas Day.

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