December 25, 2016: Singer George Michael Dies

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2016 claimed yet another music legend as George Michael was found dead on Dec. 25. The singer, 53, began his hitmaking career in the musical duo Wham! with a school friend, Andrew Ridgely, in 1981 and went on to have significant success on his own. His publicist said he “passed away peacefully at home” in Goring, Oxfordshire, England.

Michael died of natural causes, due to heart disease and a “fatty liver.”

Michael earned eight #1 U.S. pop hits in his career. His album Faith has sold a reported 25 million copies worldwide.

On an Instagram post, Elton John wrote: “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist.”

Related: Fellow performers paid tribute to Michael

Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963 in London to a Greek father and English mother. He teamed with Ridgely to form Wham as a teenager and at 20 their first album, Fantastic, hit #1 in the U.K. Their 1984 follow-up, Make It Big, lived up to its title and then some, with four gigantic singles, three of which were #1 U.S. chart hits. Those were “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper” and “Everything She Wants.” The album’s fourth single, “Freedom,” reached #3. Wham! released just one more studio album, 1986’s Music From the Edge of Heaven.

At the height of their success as a duo, Michael and Ridgely performed with Elton John at 1985’s Live Aid, singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”…

Related: 2016 in Review… saying farewell to so many

In an unsigned announcement from Sony Music, the label group stated: “George Michael was a supremely gifted artist and a true music icon. Sony Music had the privilege to have worked with him over several decades on a number of his legendary releases, and we join the world in mourning the loss of a great superstar. Our condolences go out to his family during this difficult time.”

Wham! broke up in 1986. One year later, Michael’s solo debut, Faith, took him to an even higher level of success, becoming 1988’s top-selling album and earning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It’s six singles included another four U.S. #1 chart hits: the title cut (Billboard‘s #1 single of 1988), “Father Figure,” “One More Try” and “Monkey.” Two other songs were also huge successes: “I Want Your Sex” and “Kissing a Fool.”

In his career, Michael sold a reported 100 million records. He publicly came out as gay in 1998 after he was arrested for lewd conduct at a men’s room in a Beverly Hills, CA park.

Three years to the day after Michael’s death, his sister, Melanie Panayiotou, died on Christmas Day, 2019, at age 55. Her body was found by a sister in her northwest London home.

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  1. JCB
    #1 JCB 26 December, 2019, 08:07

    A truly great singer / songwriter who deserves to be in the R+R Hall years ago. His voice was one for the ages, and he could sing anything. His version of “Somebody To Love” at Freddy Mercury’s memorial concert was beyond words, he friggin killed it.

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