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Singer George Michael dead at age 53

Last Updated Dec 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm PDT

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 1993 file photo, George Michael performs at "Concert of Hope" to mark World AIDS Day at London's Wembley Arena. According to a publicist on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, the singer has died at the age of 53. (AP Photo/Gill Allen)

LONDON (AP) (NEWS1130) – 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, who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in north London, 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.

“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 brief statement from his publicist.