British pop star George Michael dies aged 53

 26 Dec 2016 - 7:50

British pop star George Michael dies aged 53
British singer and actor George Michael waves as he leaves a news conference to introduce the film 'George Michael: A Different Story' by Southan Morris which is not part of the competition at the 55th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 16, 2005. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz/File Photo

Al-Jazeera

British singer George Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist, died at his home in England aged 53.

Thames Valley Police said the ambulance service had attended a property in Goring in Oxfordshire, where the singer lived, at 1342 GMT on Sunday and a 53-year-old man was confirmed dead at the scene.

"At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A post-mortem will be undertaken in due course," the police said. 

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963 in London to Greek Cypriot immigrant parents, Michael once played music on the London underground train system before finding fame with Wham!.

With a school friend, Andrew Ridgeley, he formed Wham! in 1981, a partnership that would produce some of the most memorable pop songs and dance-floor favourites of the 1980s.

"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," his publicist said in a statement.

"The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage," the statement said.

Michael sold more than 100 million albums in his career.

He was due to release a documentary in 2017 after a period of living as a virtual recluse in which he hit the headlines for a series of bizarre incidents linked to drugs.

Earlier this month, it was also announced that producer and songwriter Naughty Boy, whose real name is Shahid Khan, was working with Michael on a new album for next year.

Questions about his sexuality were raised when he was arrested in 1998 for "engaging in a lewd act" in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California.

"I feel stupid and reckless and weak for letting my sexuality be exposed that way," Michael told CNN at the time. "But I do not feel shame [about my sexuality], neither do I think I should.

Though he had relationships with women and once told family members that he was bisexual, Michael, then 34, said he was gay.

Michael's death comes at the end of a year that has seen the passing of several music superstars, including David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Rick Parfitt, the guitarist of British rock group Status Quo, died on Saturday at 68.