Reports: Singer George Michael dead at 53

FILE - In this May 11, 2011 file photo British singer George Michael poses for the cameras at an event to announce his European Orchestral tour in London. Austria's state broadcaster says British pop star George Michael has been released from a Vienna hospital and will be able to celebrate Christmas at home. Michael, 48, was being treated for pneumonia. Broadcaster ORF says he was released Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 from the AKH hospital and is catching a flight to London later in the day. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)
FILE - In this May 11, 2011 file photo British singer George Michael poses for the cameras at an event to announce his European Orchestral tour in London. Austria's state broadcaster says British pop star George Michael has been released from a Vienna hospital and will be able to celebrate Christmas at home. Michael, 48, was being treated for pneumonia. Broadcaster ORF says he was released Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 from the AKH hospital and is catching a flight to London later in the day. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

LONDON (AP) — 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.

In a statement, his 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.”

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.