British pop singer George Michael, who achieved fame as half of the duo Wham! before a breakout solo career, has died, 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.
The BBC reports that police don’t consider the death suspicious.
“Michael, who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in north London, sold more than 100m albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades.”
Michael’s hits with Wham! included “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” as well as seasonal staple “Last Christmas.” His solo hits included “Faith” and “Freedom ’90,” both of which also gained recognition for their racy videos. He won two Grammy awards, including a best album award for 1989’s Faith.
At the time of his biggest hits, The Associated Press notes, Michael had not disclosed his homosexuality:
“Much of his chart success was based on his sex appeal to young women. His look was raw and provocative, with tight jeans, tight T-shirts, black leather jackets and designer stubble, and his videos pushed the accepted limits with many lingerie-clad models vying for Michael’s attentions on screen.
“But Michael’s situation changed abruptly in 1998 when he was arrested for lewd conduct in a public toilet in Los Angeles after being spotted by a male undercover police officer.”
Michael’s career and popularity as a live performer remained strong afterward, if no longer chart-topping, the AP reports, “despite a growing number of run-ins with police, many of them stemming from a series of driving-under-the-influence-of-drugs incidents.”