Former Wham! singer George Michael has passed away, the BBC has reported. He was 53 years old.
Born George Kyriacos Panayiotou, Michael gained fame in the 1980s with his school friend Andrew Ridgeley when they formed Wham! They had several hits in the UK with their first album, Fantastic, which was moody, with political and social themes. With their second album they began scoring #1 hits, starting with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” That song was played everywhere so much it became a part of the culture. Michael explained how the song came about. “I just wanted to make a really energetic pop record that had all the best elements of Fifties and Sixties records, combined with our attitude and our approach, which is obviously more uptempo and a lot younger than some of those records. It’s one of those tracks that gets rid of a lot of your own personal influences; it reminds me of so many different records that I couldn’t actually nail them down. I’d done a demo at home that just had a bass line and a vocal on it. Usually, I write the record in my head; I know what all the parts are going to be and I sing them to all our musicians. And it was great. … We actually did it as a rehearsal. We used a Linn drum because the drummer was late, and it was such a good track that we kept it.”
In 1986 he went off on his own and scored even more hits: “I Want Your Sex,” “Faith,” “Father Figure” and many more. He performed with Aretha Franklin, David Cassidy, Elton John and at the first Band-Aid concert for famine relief in Africa.
Michael received many awards, including Grammys, throughout his career and his records have sold nearly 100 million copies. Many of his albums went Platinum and Diamond, meaning they sold a million and 10 million copies each.
In 1998 he began getting into legal trouble when he was arrested in Beverly Hills, CA for engaging in a lewd act after propositioning an undercover police officer. He revealed his sexual orientation on CNN afterward, ending years of speculation that he was gay. He also had troubles with alcohol and drugs, with Michael getting into a terrible car accident in 2010. The following year Michael postponed some concerts after being hospitalized for pneumonia.
On Christmas day, 2016, an ambulance was summoned to his home where he was found dead. As of now his death is “unexplained” but the police ruled out any suspicious circumstances. His publicist released a statement saying, “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.”
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UPDATE: It has been determined Michael died from heart failure.
Top Photo: Screenshot from YouTube)