British singer and pop star George Michael, who rose to prominence in the 1980s at one-half of the duo Wham!, has died, according to a statement from his publicist. He was 53.
“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 statement read. “The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage.”
The BBC reports that police were called to Michael's home in Goring, England, about 50 miles west of London, at 1:42 p.m. local time on Christmas Day. Although cause of death remains undetermined, “There were no suspicious circumstances,” according to the BBC report.
Between Wham! and a successful solo career, Michael sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. In the United States he released nine chart-topping singles, including “Careless Whisper” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” with Wham! and “Faith,” “Father Figure” and “One More Try” from his 1987 debut solo album, Faith, which sold over 25 million copies worldwide.
His last No. 1 single was a duet of “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with Elton John released in 1991. John was one of many musicians and celebrities who posted tributes to Michael on social media, declaring on Instagram: “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.”
Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in London in 1963, Michael's popularity faded in the 1990s, but he had a comeback with his 2004 album, Patience, and had toured several times over the past decade. His final album, 2014's Symphonica, was a live album recorded during his 2011-12 tour, which featured a full orchestra.
Though the cause of Michael's death remains unconfirmed, the singer has struggled with multiple health and addiction issues over the past decade. Between 2006 and 2010, Michael was arrested several times for drug possession and public intoxication, one of which led to four weeks of jail time and a five-year driving ban. In 2011, he was in a coma for three weeks during a near-fatal bout of pneumonia, and in 2013, he suffered a head injury after falling out of a moving vehicle.
Andrew Ridgeley, Michael's partner in Wham!, wrote on Twitter: “Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog. Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large.”