George Michael “passed away peacefully at home” at 13:42 GMT on Christmas Day in Goring in Oxfordshire, according to Thames Valley Police, who have also confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances.
In a statement, George’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.”
George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in East Finchley, London. His father, Kyriacos Panayiotou, a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, moved to England in the 1950s and changed his name to Jack Panos. Michael’s mother, Lesley Angold was an English dancer. In his early teens, the family moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire and attended Bushey Meads School where he befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. George would busk on the London Underground, performing songs such as ’39’ by Queen. He began by working as a DJ, around Bushey, Stanmore, and Watford, before he formed the short-lived ska band called the Executive with Ridgeley.
The pair formed Wham! in 1981 and their first album Fantastic reached No. 1 in the UK in 1983. The follow-up, Make It Big, reached the US chart summit, singles from that album including the brilliant ‘Careless Whisper’ which hit No. 1 in nearly 25 countries, the UK and US among them. It was billed as Michael’s first solo effort as a single. In all, he sold more than 100 million albums over a career that spanned almost four decades and took him from a teen idol with Wham! to one of the most creative singer-songwriters of his generation..
George’s solo albums included the multi-million selling Faith and follow-up Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. During his career he had seven No. 1 singles in the UK and eight on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2008, Billboard ranked him the 40th most successful artist on the Hot 100 Top All Time Artists list.
He won numerous awards throughout his 30-year career, including three BRIT Awards, two of them as Best British Male. He was also recognised with four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards from eight nominations.
In 2004, the Radio Academy named him the most played artist on British radio between 1984–2004. In 2006, he undertook his first tour in 15 years, the global 25 Live itinerary, which encompassed three individual tours between 2006 and 2008 and was seen by some two million people.
In 2011, George Michael postponed a series of concerts after being taken to hospital for treatment for pneumonia. After treatment in a Vienna hospital, he told the waiting media outside his London home that it had been “touch and go” whether he lived. His death at just 53 years old robs us of one of the most significant pop talents of his generation.
George Michael RIP