Pop superstar George Michael has passed away on Christmas Day at his home at the age of 53, his publicist has announced.
George Michael, who launched his career with Wham! in the ‘80s and had huge success as a solo performer, “passed away peacefully” in Goring, Oxfordshire.
Thames Valley Police say they are treating the death as unexplained but there were no suspicious circumstances.
Former Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley said he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend”.
Writing on Twitter and referring to George Michael as “Yog”, a nickname for “Yours Only George”, Andrew Ridgeley added: “Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. A xx”
Elton John posted on Instagram a picture of himself with George Michael, writing: “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.”
George Michael’s family announced news of his death in a statement issued through the singer’s publicist.
The statement 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.”
South Central Ambulance Service had been called to George Michael’s property at 13:42 GMT.
Thames Valley Police said its officers also attended and George Michael was confirmed dead at the scene.
Police added: “At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A post-mortem will be undertaken in due course. There will be no further updates from Thames Valley Police until the post-mortem has taken place.”
George Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, gave the cause of death as heart failure.
A small heart wreath and a rose are among the tributes that have begun to be left outside the front door of the superstar’s home, a detached property by the River Thames.
George Michael, who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in north London, sold more than 100 million albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades.
The musician first found fame with schoolfriend Andrew Ridgeley in duo Wham! – reaching No 1 in the UK singles charts on four occasions – before going on to release solo albums, including the multi-million selling Faith in 1987.
The follow-up Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 outsold Faith in the UK but led to George Michael losing a court case with record label Sony over his frustration at how the album has been marketed.
As a solo artist, George Michael scored a further seven No 1 singles in the UK with songs including Careless Whisper and Fastlove, collaborated with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Elton John, and won three Brit Awards and two Grammys.
George Michael later began facing headlines for the wrong reasons.
In October 2006, the singer pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs, and in 2008 was cautioned for possession of class A drugs, including crack cocaine.
In September 2010, George Michael received an eight-week prison sentence following an incident in which he crashed his Range Rover into a shop in north London. He admitted driving under the influence of drugs and possessing cannabis.
Earlier this month it was announced that producer and songwriter Naughty Boy was working with George Michael on a new album.
A documentary film entitled Freedom was due for release in March 2017.
In 2011, George Michael postponed a series of concerts after being taken to hospital for treatment for pneumonia.
After treatment in a Vienna hospital, the musician made a tearful appearance outside his London home and said it had been “touch and go” whether he lived.
Doctors were reported to have performed a tracheotomy to keep his airways open and George Michael was unconscious for some of his spell in hospital.
After years of refusing to be drawn on speculation about his sexuality, George Michael disclosed he was gay in 1998 after being was arrested in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, California.