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R.I.P. GEORGE MICHAEL (UPDATE)

George Michael, whose career began with Wham! in the 1980s and grew larger as he turned solo, died Christmas Day at his home in Goring in Oxfordshire, about 50 miles west of London. He was 53.

Police say there were no suspicious circumstances, according to the BBC.

In a statement, the singer'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.”

Michael, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, came of age in MTV’s early years with a squeaky clean image fronting Wham! with his childhood friend Andrew Ridgeley. Their video for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” featured the duo as a carefree pop act dressed in white with sayings printed on their T-shirts geared toward teenage female fans. “Careless Whisper,” recorded while he was still a member of Wham! was his first solo single in 1984.

After going solo, he broke out in 1987 with “I Want Your Sex” from Beverly Hills Cop II, a controversial song at the time, which required Michael to create a video that promoted monogamy. His first solo album,Faith, would go on to sell 20 million copies worldwide and generate four #1 singles in the U.S., it established Michael as one of the premiere stars and sex symbols of the late 1980s on par with Madonna and Prince.

With Wham!, he was the first pop act to tour China; once he went solo, Michael was one of the hottest concert attractions worldwide, immediately playing arenas to promote Faith.

Michael grew uncomfortable with celebrity—a 1990 L.A. Times story about Michael’s issue with fame led to Frank Sinatra writing a letter to the editor suggesting he just deal with it—and his releases slowed considerably. Michael only made five albums between 1990’s Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 and 2014’s Symphonica.

More popular in the U.K. than the U.S., he had seven #1 singles and seven #1 albums. He wrote his biography, Bare, in 1991.

He won two Grammy Awards: Album of the Year forFaith and R&B Performance by a Vocal Duo or Group for “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” with Aretha Franklin.

Over the last 25 years, Michael’s appearances have often been charity events: He participated in Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium; proceeds from his version of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” went to 10 charities; his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You and I” was done to raises funds for various charities; and in 2007, he sent John Lennon’s white piano on a tour around the world to promote peace.

Michael had health problems that became public in 2011 with the cancelation of a performance at London's Royal Albert Hall that led to him canceling multiple performances due to the diagnosis of pneumonia.

Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow issued the following statement:

We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of two-time Grammy Award recipient George Michael. During an influential career that spanned nearly four decades, George became one of the most beloved pop craftsmen and respected entertainers. From the enormous success he achieved with pop duo Wham! to his influential solo career, his extraordinary talent had a profound impact on countless entertainers worldwide, and his creative contributions will live on forever. We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to George’s family, friends, and musical collaborators. He will be missed.

Warner/Chappell ruler Jon Platt also released remarks:

We are all deeply saddened to hear that George Michael has passed away. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and his friends.

We join millions of fans in mourning the untimely passing of this towering talent. He was the epitome of the consummate pop star, a singer/songwriter who enthralled the world, always keeping us guessing where his music would take us next.

After the global phenomenon of WHAM!, George transformed himself and his art, emerging as a solo superstar who then tirelessly broke new ground and set higher standards. He was an artist in every sense - a soulful vocalist, an unforgettable performer and, above all, a uniquely gifted songwriter. From pop tunes to dance anthems, from confessional ballads to social commentary, he perfected almost every kind of song, creating too many timeless hits to mention. His music will entertain, move, comfort and inspire people for generations to come. We will miss you. Rest In Peace, George.

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