Tributes pour in for singer George Michael who dies aged 53
The London-born star, who rose to fame as frontman of the pop duo Wham! and had chart-topping hits including Last Christmas, is reported to have died peacefully at his Oxfordshire home on Sunday.
His death is the latest in what has been dubbed “the curse of 2016”, a year that has seen the passing of an unprecedented number of celebrities.
Singers, actors, comedians and politicians, including Scotland’s First Minister, have expressed shock and sadness after hearing the news.
The singer, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, sold more than 100 million albums in a career spanning almost four decades.
He has been described as a “generous soul” and “a lovely human being”.
Long-time friend and Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me collaborator Sir Elton John, with whom Michael had a rocky relationship, took to to social media shortly after his death was announced.
He posted a photograph of himself and Michael on Instagram, 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.”
Pop queen Madonna posted: “Farewell My Friend! Another great artist leaves us. Can 2016 F*** off now?”
Former Wham! bandmate and old school friend Andrew Ridgeley tweeted that he is “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend”.
Singer Bryan Adams expressed shock at the news.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “Such an incredible singer and a lovely human being, far too young to leave us.”
Pop band Duran Duran, who found fame alongside Wham! in the 1980s, wrote: “2016 – loss of another talented soul. All our love and sympathy to @GeorgeMichael’s family.”
Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is just too awful. Such an amazing talent gone too soon. Wham! was part of the soundtrack to my teenage years.”
One of the band’s most enduring songs, Last Christmas, is currently at number 16 in the UK singles chart.
It was first released in 1984 was kept from reaching number one by Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas, which also featured Michael.
The performer’s family announced his death in a statement from his publicist.
“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,” it said.
Michael narrowly escaped death in 2011 when he was hospitalised with pneumonia while on tour in Vienna.
In a tearful appearance after treatment that included an emergency tracheotomy, he said it had been “touch and go” whether he lived.
It was often his turbulent private life that hit the headlines.
He was outed as homosexual in 1998 after police were called to an incident in a public toilet. In 2007 he lost his driving licence after being found slumped behind the steering wheel of his car. Not long afterwards he was arrested for cottaging and charged with possession of crack cocaine.
But the singer, who campaigned for gay rights and HIV charities, was also known for his honesty.
“I’m surprised I’ve survived my own dysfunction,” he said in one interview.