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.