Pop icon George Michael dies at 53, He was one of the most iconic

Pop icon George Michael dies at 53,George Michael was one of the most iconic figures of the ’80s and ’90s, buthere are some things you may not know about the legendary musician.

Elysa Gardner and Andrea Mandell ,

Pop icon George Michael dies at 53
(Photo: Leon Neal, AFP/Getty Images)

(US Today) –George Michael was one of the most iconic figures of the ’80s and ’90s, but here are some things you may not know about the legendary musician. USA TODAY NETWORK

George Michael, the British singer, musician and founding member of Wham!, died over the Christmas holiday, his publicist confirms to USA TODAY.  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 to USA TODAY by Michael’s London-based publicist, Connie Filippello. “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 musician died in Goring, England.

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 stunned the entertainment community. His U.S. publicist, Cindi Berger, told the Associated Press he had not been ill.

“I am in deep shock,” Elton John wrote on Instagram. “I have lost a beloved friend — the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans.”

Michael sold more than 100 million albums globally, earned numerous Grammy Awards, and recorded duets with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti and John, among others.

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. 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.

Born Georgios Panayiotou in North London — his father was a Greek immigrant — Michael met another aspiring musician, Andrew Ridgeley, while both were attending secondary school in Hertfordshire. 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.

One song from Wham!’s American breakthrough album, Make It Big, was credited to Michael as a solo artist when it was released as a single: the lovelorn ballad Careless Whisper, which reached No. 1 in the U.K., the USA and various other countries. That feat, and subsequent well-received solo turns, including a duet with Aretha Franklin (1987’s I Knew You Were Waiting for Me), led many to suspect that Wham!’s frontman had abilities and ambitions beyond making little girls scream.

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