George Michael, the British singer, musician and founding member of Wham!, died over the Christmas holiday, his publicist confirmed today (Sun).  He was 53.

“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 a statement sent from Michael’s London-based publicist, Connie Filippello.

The BBC was the first to report Michael’s death. The cause of death was heart failure, according to Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter. The pop star’s death shocked the entertainment community.

Few teen idols have made critics eat their words more handily than Michael did back in his late-’80s heyday, when the former Wham! frontman emerged as one of the most successful and admired singer/songwriters of that decade.

Born Georgios Panagiotou in North London — his father was a Greek immigrant — Michael met another aspiring musician, Andrew Ridgeley, while both were attending secondary school in Hartfordshire. By 1982, they were recording together as the bubble-gum duo Wham!, and within two years they would be among the world’s most popular acts, with bouncy hits such as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Freedom becoming staples of the early MTV era.

But in the years that followed, Michael made news more frequently for his professional struggles and personal scandal, even as he continued to record and tour profitably and inspire younger acts.

Our prayers and condolences go to out to his family and his many friends and fans.

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