George Michael dies aged 53

George Michael

Singer George Michael has passed away aged 53.

The news was announced by the singer’s publicist who said Michael passed away peacefully at home on Christmas Day.

In a statement the 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.”

Thames Valley Police said South Central Ambulance Service attended a property in Goring in Oxfordshire at 13:42 GMT. Police say they were treating the death as unexplained but there were no suspicious circumstances.

Reactions to George Michael’s Passing

Sir Elton John lead the tributes to the singer and songwriter.

“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,” Sir Elton posted to Instagram alongside an photo of him with Michael.

The two had often collaborated, appearing together at the legendary Live Aid concert and recording together at various times through their careers. Michael sang backing vocals and Elton John’s hit Nikita, and the pair scored a hit with their version of John’s Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, which raised money for HIV research.

Former band-mate Andrew Ridgely posted a message to Twitter saying he was heartbroken.

“Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog. Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. A xx”.

Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin from Bananarama said that Michael was one of their oldest friends.

“We are both deeply saddened by the news of our friend George’s passing. We will never forget you. Love & miss you” the duo posted to Twitter. Woodward is married to Andrew Ridgely.

Soul singer Chaka Khan posted to Twitter “Another beautiful talent taken away. Rest in power GeorgeMichael. 2016 is just brutal.”

TV host James Corden said he’d always been a big fan of the singer. Corden’s popular Carpool Karaoke segment originated on the British Comic Relief charity fundraiser. Corden and Michael drove around singing Wham! songs.

“I’ve loved George Michael for as long as I can remember,” Corden wrote. “He was an absolute inspiration. Always ahead of his time.”

Belinda Carlisle said she was devestated by the news; “Absolutely devastated about George Michael. what a fucked up way to end this year. rest in peace my friend….”

Holly Johnson from Frankie Goes to Hollywood also paid tribute; “Sad to hear the news about George Michael , and so many great singers and songwriters we lost this year.”

George Michael’s career started in pop duo Wham!

Michael, who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, rose to fame in the early 1980’s as one half of pop duo Wham!. Alongside Andrew Ridgely, the duo had a steady stream of hits between 1982 and 1986.

Among the bands many hits were Wham Rap, Wake Me Up Before You Go-go, Young Guns (Go For It), Freedom, Last Chistmas, The Edge of Heaven and I’m Your Man. During the band’s run Michael also launched a successful solo career with the songs Careless Whisper and A Different Corner. 

Wham! made history as the first western band to visit communist China. The band’s 10 day tour of the country was captured in a documentary Foreign Skies.

Ahead the release of their third album the band announced they were splitting and played a massive concert and Wembley stadium.  

Solo Success

George Michael became on of the major pop stars of the 1980’s and 1990’s with his solo career that began with the album Faith  which spawned many hits including the controversial I Want Your Sex, which promoted safe sex, monogamy and using condoms at a time when HIV/AIDS had few treatment options.

Other hits on Michael’s debut solo album included Monkey, Father Figure, One More Try and the title track Faith. Michael also scored another hit when he teamed up with Aretha Franklin for a duet on I Knew You Were Waiting for Me. 

The singer’s second album Listen Without Prejudice: Volume 1 was a more adult contemporary affair as the performer expressed his desire to be taken more seriously as a songwriter.

The singer captured his feelings about fame with the song Freedom ’90, which would later be covered by Robbie Williams to launch his solo career after leaving Take That. The song’s iconic video featured supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, and Cindy Crawford lip-synching the song.

After the release of the album Michael had a falling out with his record company, that had been bought over by Sony, and plans for Listen Without Prejudice, Vol 2 were shelved. Some of the songs from the planned album were given to a HIV/AIDS fundraising record and Michael had another hit with Too Funky. 

The singer’s lawsuit with Sony, which he eventually lost, saw him not release any albums for several years but he remained in the charts with several songs included a duet with longtime Elton John on Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me. The singer also appeared at the tribute concert to Queen front-man Freddie Mercury performing Somebody to Love. 

In 1994, Michael returned with the album Older. The first single Jesus to a Child, was dedicated to his partner fashion designer Anselo  Feleppa who had died in 1993. It would be several years however before Michael would publicly speak about his sexuality.

The Older album was also filled with its including Spinning the Wheel, Star People ’97, Fastlove, and You Have Been Loved. 

The singer confirmed that he was gay in 1997 after he was arrested for lewd conduct in a public bathroom in Beverly Hills. Michael made light of the situation with the song Outside, which featured a video of public toilet turning into a disco.

Michael finished the decade with a covers album Songs of the Last Century that featured a range of unexpected songs including I Remember You, Wild as the Wind and Brother Can You Spare a Dime? 

The singer’s final album of original material was 2003’s Patience. It contained the hits Freek, Shoot the Dog, Amazing, Flawless (Go to the City) and Round Here. 

George Michael toured Australia in 2010 and made an appearance at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Michael would release a few new songs to accompany Greatest Hits collections over the years, and put out several singles online. His final CD release was Symphonica, which saw him perform many of his greatest hits with a Symphony Orchestra.

Legal and Health Problems

The latter part of Michael’s career was plagued with legal problems and health concerns. After his arrest in Los Angeles, tabloid newspapers suggesting several times that Michael was often cruising for anonymous sex, something that the singer acknowledged.

In 2006 Michael was arrested on a drugs possession charge. A year later he lost his driver’s license after he was found slumped over in his car at the traffic lights in London. In 2008 he was arrested at a public toilet for possession of both Class A and C drugs.

In 201o the singer was captured on CCTV driving into the front of a camera store and was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. Michael was sentenced to two months in prison, although he was released after four weeks.

In 2011 Michael was forced to cancel his Symphonica tour after he was admitted to  a Vienna hospital suffering from Pneumonia. The singer nearly died on that occasion and spent several weeks in the hospital.

The singer was expected to be the first performer to play at Perth’s new arena in 2012 but was forced to pull out of this planned tour. Close friend Elton John became the first act to play at the new venue.

In 2013 Michael sustained ahead injury after he fell from a moving car on a British motorway and had to be airlifted to hospital.

In his final years the singer was reportedly increasingly reclusive but had been working on a documentary about his career.


OIP Staff

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