[NPR] British pop singer George Michael, who achieved fame as half of the duo Wham! before a breakout solo career has died at his home in Oxfordshire, England, his publicist tells NPR. He was 53.
Michael had struggled with depression and faced both drug and health problems, reports NPR’s Frank Langfitt, and he postponed a series of concerts in 2011 after being hospitalized for pneumonia.
His manager told the Hollywood Reporter that he died of heart failure.
Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in North London, the son of a Greek Cypriot restaurant owner.
Critics questioned the quality of some of his early lyrics, but Michael was extremely gifted at writing pop hooks. He was recently nominated for the Songwriters Hall of Fame and sold more than 100 million albums during his nearly four-decade career.
He was clearly the creative force behind Wham! Michael and guitarist and schoolmate Andrew Ridgeley produced huge hits, like “Freedom” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” as well as the seasonal staple “Last Christmas.” Live audiences were drawn to the handsome duo’s dynamic dance-heavy stage shows.
Michael soon went off on his own. In 1987, he released the album Faith, which eventually sold more than 25 million copies, followed by Freedom ’90. Both albums also gained recognition for their racy videos. He won two Grammy awards, including the best album award for 1989’s Faith.