British pop singer George Michael has died at age 53.

 

The news has come as a shock to all as he was widely believed to be in good health and was said to be working on new material as recently as 10 days ago.

The star, who launched his career with Wham! in the 1980s and had huge success as a solo performer is said to have “passed away peacefully” on Christmas Day in Goring, Oxfordshire. His manager, Michael Lippman, said he had died of heart failure, although further details are still not available at this time.

Michael had seven number one singles in the U.K. and eight number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100.  He and his musical partner Andrew Ridgley in Wham!, skyrocketed to fame with hits like “Freedom”, “Everything She Wants”, and “Careless Whisper,” which reached number one in nearly 25 countries, including the UK and U.S.

Their 1984 holiday hit “Last Christmas,” which was written and produced by Michael, continues to be widely played and covered by other artists. The song spent 13 weeks at number two on the UK Singles Chart in 1985. Check it out below:

Michael launched his solo career following the group’s break-up in 1987 with his first solo album, 1987′s “Faith.” Then came a collaboration with American soul music legend Aretha Franklin. The Grammy award-winning song “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” reached number one on both the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and U.K. Singles Chart that year.

Michael’s personal life always made headlines throughout his career as questions about his  sexual orientation always simmered. Eventually he spoke openly about struggling to define his sexuality as a gay man.

Regardless, his impact on music will not be forgotten.

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