George Michael: Singer-Songwriter Dies at 53

Singer and songwriter George Michael has died at his home. He was 53.

The English singer, songwriter and record producer who rose to fame with the group Wham! “passed away peacefully at home,” Michael’s publicist told the BBC on Christmas Day.

“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,” read the 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 London-born singer, whose real name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, formed Wham! in 1981 with school friend Andrew Ridgeley, and the pop duo went on to have a string of hits, including “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” “Club Tropicana” and “Last Christmas.”

He parted ways with Ridgeley in 1986, and his first solo album “Faith” sold more than 25 million copies, and won a Grammy.

This was followed by “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1,” which resulted in a legal dispute with U.S. record label Sony after Michael became frustrated with how they had handled the release. Plans for “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2” were shelved, and his next album, “Older,” achieved limited success. This was followed by “Songs from the Last Century” and “Patience.”

Michael suffered from bouts of depression and drug problems, as well as the occasional brush with the law. He spent four weeks in prison in 2010 following a drug-driving conviction.

Michael almost died from pneumonia in 2011 when he was on tour in Vienna. He was hospitalized, and later said it had been “touch and go” whether he lived.

Among the notables who were quick to praise Michael’s legacy as an artist and as a person was James Corden, host of CBS’s “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” Michael was in part the inspiration for Corden’s popular “Carpool Karaoke” segment, featuring Corden driving around Los Angeles in a small car with a superstar belting out their hits.

Corden first did the bit with Michael on a British TV special in 2011. It was such a hit that Corden decided to revive it after he moved to the U.S. to take over “Late Show” in 2015.