Singer George Michael dies at age 53

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British singer George Michael (L) arrives at the Brent Magistrates Court in north London, 08 June 2007, as he prepares for sentencing on charges of driving while unfit. The former Wham! frontman known for hits such as "Careless Whisper" and "Faith" was found slumped at the wheel of his Mercedes car at traffic lights in north London last October. AFP PHOTO/Max Nash (Photo credit should read MAX NASH/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — George Michael, who rocketed to stardom with WHAM! and went on to enjoy a long and celebrated solo career lined with controversies, has died, his publicist said Sunday. He was 53.

Michael enjoyed immense popularity early in his career as a teenybopper idol, delivering a series of hits such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” ”Young Guns (Go For It)” and “Freedom.”

As a solo artist, he developed into a more serious singer and songwriter, lauded by critics for his tremendous vocal range.

Michael, with startling good looks and an easy stage manner, formed the boy band WHAM! with his school friend Andrew Ridgeley in the early 1980’s. Helped by MTV, the cheerful duo easily crossed the Atlantic to become popular in the United States.

In a statement, the star’s publicist said:

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. The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage.