George Michael, pop superstar, dies at 53 | Music | The Guardian

George Michael in 2011. He has died peacefully at home. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

The pop superstar George Michael has died peacefully at home, his publicist said.

The 53-year-old, who was set to release a documentary in 2017, rose to fame as half of Wham!, known for their hits Club Tropicana and Last Christmas. He had a highly successful solo career which included the songs Careless Whisper, Faith, Outside and Freedom! 90.

Michael – who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou – had 11 UK number ones and sold more than 100m albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades. His last album, Symphonica, was released in 2014.

Thames Valley police told the BBC an ambulance had attended a house in Goring, Oxfordshire, at 1.42pm. They said the death was being treated as “unexplained but not suspicious” and they would not comment further until after a postmortem.

In a statement, the star’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.”

Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, said he had died from heart failure and was found “in bed, lying peacefully”. His publicist, Cindi Berger, said he had not been ill.

On Twitter, Andrew Ridgeley, Michael’s partner in Wham!, said he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend”.

Sir Elton John, another friend and collaborator, wrote on Instagram of his “deep shock” at the lost of a “the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist”.

Michael was born in London to Greek Cypriot parents and first achieved pop success with school friend Ridgeley in the pop duo Wham! They split up in 1986 and he went on to have a glittering solo career that also saw him collaborate with John, Aretha Franklin, and Queen, after the death of Freddie Mercury.

He also had frequent brushes with the law, including his highly publicised arrest in a Los Angeles public toilet in 1998, an episode that led him to acknowledge his homosexuality and his relationship with Kenny Goss. His track Outside, released the same year, poked fun at the arrest and reached No 2 in the charts.

But Michael would struggle to recapture the same success and his last studio album, Patience, was released in 2004.

In later years he had a series of arrests for drugs and driving offences and was banned from driving twice. In 2011 he officially announced the ending of a turbulent 15-year relationship with Goss – though he said that the pair had actually split about two years earlier. After a career hiatus that he described as “a very long period of grief and self-abuse”, he announced his return to performing and said he felt remorse for the impact his high-profile arrests might have had on young gay people striving for acceptance.

Michael nearly died of pneumonia in late 2011. After receiving treatment in a Vienna hospital, he made a tearful appearance outside his London home and said it had been “touch and go” whether he lived. Doctors had performed a tracheotomy to keep his airways open and he was unconscious for some of his spell in hospital.

In May 2013 Michael had to be airlifted to hospital with a head injury after falling from his vehicle on the M1.

Michael’s 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 had been set to be reissued, accompanied by a new film featuring Stevie Wonder, John and the supermodels who starred in the video to his hit single Freedom! 90.

The movie, with the working title Freedom: George Michael, was to be narrated by Michael and set to feature Mark Ronson, Mary J Blige, Tony Bennett, Liam Gallagher, James Corden and Ricky Gervais.

The record was his second solo album, after the hugely successful Faith, and was arranged, produced and almost entirely written by Michael, but did not feature him on the album cover.

It featured hits including Cowboys and Angels, Mother’s Pride and Praying for Time and outsold Faith in the UK, where it went platinum four times but led to a court case with US record label Sony spurred by Michael’s frustration at how the album was marketed. Michael lost the case.

Paying tribute, contemporaries Duran Duran referred to theloss of “another talented soul” in a year which has seen the death of several major-league rock and pop stars, among them David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Rick Parfitt, guitarist in Status Quo, died on Christmas Eve at the age of 68.

Brian May, the Queen guitarist, said the news of Michael’s death was “beyond sad” and LaToya Jackson said he had “an amazing gift”. Martin Fry, the lead singer and songwriter with ABC, said on Twitter: “Absolutely devastated to hear of the loss of George Michael.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said Michael was “an exceptional artist and a strong supporter of LGBT and workers’ rights”. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, was among the first to pay tribute, describing him as “an amazing talent gone too soon”.