George Michael Dies At 53

Singer George Michael died on Christmas Day at 53, his 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," read a statement.

"The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time."

Michael, who was working on a documentary that will air in 2017, died at his home in Goring, Oxfordshire in the early afternoon. Thames Valley Police said they do not suspect foul play.

The pop superstar's partner said Michael evidently died in his sleep. Neighbours told reporters that the singer had gained a lot of weight in recent months and did not look well.

On Instagram, Elton John shared a photo of himself with Michael. “I am in deep shock," he wrote. "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."

Singer Mika paid tribute to Michael as "one of the finest male pop vocalists that ever recorded."

"Other than a global pop phenom, George Michael was one of the true British soul greats," tweeted producer Mark Ronson. "Alot of us owe him an unpayable debt." Musician and producer Nile Rodgers echoed the sentiment, calling Michael "an absolute genius."

Queen member Brian May tweeted: "George ? George Michael ? No ... it cannot be. Beyond sad."

A tweet by Duran Duran mourned the "loss of another talented soul" and offered "love and sympathy" to Michael's family. Spandau Ballet called him "a brilliant artist & great songwriter."

Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell called Michael "a dear friend, the kindest, most generous and talented person."

Born Georgios Panayiotou, the singer found global success first as half of pop duo Wham! (with Andrew Ridgeley) and then as a solo artist.

In the '80s, Wham! had hits like "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Careless Whisper." In 1984, they released the holiday song "Last Christmas," which was written by Michael.

Ridgeley tweeted that he was "heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend."

Michael's 1987 solo debut Faith sold 20 million copies and spawned hits like "I Want Your Sex" and "Father Figure."

He went on to release five more full-length albums and an EP.

Michael collected dozens of awards during his career, including three American Music Awards and two Grammys.

In a statement, the Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said: “During an influential career that spanned nearly four decades, George became one of the most beloved pop craftsmen and respected entertainers. ... His extraordinary talent had a profound impact on countless entertainers worldwide, and his creative contributions will live on forever. We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to George’s family, friends, and musical collaborators. He will be missed.”

The superstar faced death several times. In 2013, he suffered a head injury after falling out of a moving vehicle on a highway in England. Two years earlier, Michael was hospitalized with pneumonia so severe that he spent several days in intensive care and underwent a tracheotomy.

In 2014, Michael was rushed by ambulance to hospital after collapsing at home.

There were also well-publicized battles with drug abuse. He was arrested for possession in 2006, 2008, and 2010.

Michael was famously arrested in 1998 for "engaging in a lewd act" in a park washroom in Beverly Hills after he exposed himseld to an undercover police officer. He was fined and ordered to perform community service. The incident inspired his single "Outside."

In 2015, Michael denied a report that he had checked in to a Swiss rehab centre due to an addiciton to crack. "Do not believe this rubbish," he tweeted.

TRIBUTES

On Christmas night, Martin Fry of ABC tweeted: "Absolutely devastated to hear of the loss of @GeorgeMichael. Truly brilliant talent #sad #sad #sad."

Singer Howard Jones called Michael "one of the greatest singers and writers the UK ever produced ... a lovely man" and Meat Loaf remembered him as "a nice human." 

Nick Lachey said Michael was "a truly gifted singer and a musical inspiration."

Pop singer Alison Moyet tweeted: "He was ever a gentle, unassuming soul. A rare presence in a world full of self. Honest, genuine talent."

Stonewall, a UK organization advocating for equal rights for LGBT people, also paid tribute on Twitter. "You inspired many and your music will live on in the hearts of the community. You will be sorely missed."

Tributes also came from Canadians. "He was a big inspiration," read a tweet from Tegan and Sara, while singer Alan Doyle tweeted: "Oh Frigsakes. RIP George Michael. What [a] singer."

"George Michael was a kind and gentle soul," actor Ryan Reynolds tweeted. William Shatner asked "is this year over yet? Too many people are passing away."

Michael's death comes at the end of a year when the music world lost icons like David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen.

"2016 is just brutal," tweeted Chaka Khan, who remembered Michael as a "beautiful talent."

Actor George Takei used the names of several of Michael's songs in his tribute. "Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael," he tweeted. "You've found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you."

Michael's 1995 single “Jesus to a Child” was written in memory of his partner Anselmo Feleppa, who died of an AIDS-related brain hemorrhage a few years earlier.

The lyrics include: “I’m blessed I know / Heaven sent and heaven stole."

Check out some of George Michael's best-known songs: