George Michael - Wembley Arena  171206 (34).jpg
Photograph: Photo by MandyJC72, used under CC BY-SA

British pop singer George Michael has died, the British news agency PA reported Sunday, citing his publicist.

"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," PA quoted the star's publicist as saying.

"The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time," the agency quoted the publicist as saying. "There will be no further comment at this stage."

Michael's death was being treated as "unexplained but not suspicious," the Thames Valley Police said.

Friends and colleagues reacted with incredulity and sadness on Twitter.

Singer Elton John posted a photo of himself with Michael on Instagram with the caption: "I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend - the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all of his fans."

Madonna posted: "Farewell My Friend! Another Great Artist leaves us. Can 2016 Fuck Off NOW?"

Singer Bryan Adams tweeted: "RIP George Michael. I can't believe it. Such an incredible singer and a lovely human being, far too young to leave us."

Talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres said, "I just heard about my friend @GeorgeMichael's death. He was such a brilliant talent. I'm so sad."

The 53-year-old Michael rose to fame as a member of pop duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley, known for their hits "Club Tropicana" and "Last Christmas."

The son of a Greek Cypriot father and British mother, his real name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou. He went on to have a successful solo career after Wham! split up in 1986.

The artist, who was initially reticent about his private life, came out as gay after a very public arrest for a "lewd act" in a Beverly Hills restroom in 1998.

He responded with a tongue-in-cheek song, "Outside," with a video featuring policemen and a row of gleaming urinals in an apparent reference to his arrest.

Michael sold more than 100 million albums throughout his career spanning almost four decades.

"Outside" (1998), "Faith" (1987) and "Careless Whisper" (1984) were among his biggest hits as a solo artist.

The death of his mother and of his life partner plunged Michael into depression and crisis in the 1990s.

The artist had a difficult relationship with fame and fortune and had several run-ins with the law relating to drug offences. He pleaded guilty to charges of driving while unfit through drugs in 2007 and 2010.

Michael suffered a bout of pneumonia and spent four weeks in hospital in Vienna in 2011.

Related stories

Popstar George Michael dies of heart failure

At 57, pop icon Prince ends his purple reign

Adele sweeps top awards at 2017 Grammys

Report: Pop icon Prince dead at 57

Latest news

Trump administration opens door for mass deportations

The US Department of Homeland Security laid the groundwork Tuesday for mass deportations of immigrants living illegally in the United States under an executive order by President Donald Trump last month.

Brexit bill: House of Lords says public can change mind on leaving EU

The British public should be able to change their minds on Brexit - just as Prime Minister Theresa May did, the upper chamber of parliament heard Tuesday during a marathon debate on legislation to kick off EU negotiations.

Italian lawmakers, rights activists clash over gay sex club scandal

Gay rights activists and conservative politicians clashed Tuesday after the chief of Italy's anti-discrimination office quit over allegations that money had been authorized for gay sex clubs.

EU countries agree new rules to avoid tax evasion

European Union finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday reached a political agreement on new rules to ensure that multinational corporations do not declare profits in the countries where they pay the least tax but in the countries where they generate it.

Trump condemns "horrible, painful" anti-Jewish incidents

US President Donald Trump condemned a recent spate of threats against Jewish community targets across the United States, during a visit Tuesday to the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

FinMin expects Croatia to exit Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Tuesday Croatia could exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring and that it was showing progress in correcting macroeconomic imbalances.

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

Juncker: Not good for W. Balkans that some in Washington want to water down EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday it was not good for Western Balkan countries that some people in the new US administration gave the impression of being against the European Union because those countries needed the prospects of EU membership.

Citizens invited to help create Croatian version of Monopoly

A project to create a Croatian edition of Monopoly, in which citizens can participate by submitting proposals and which could become a souvenir for tourists, was presented at a press conference on Tuesday.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok named Asia's best for third year

Bangkok's Indian eatery Gaggan on Tuesday was named the best restaurant in Asia for the third consecutive year by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

HGK: 16 Croatian companies to exhibit at IDEX defence exhibition

Sixteen Croatian companies will exhibit their products at the 13th IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to be held on February 19-23.

Trump and the nuclear codes: Carnival again takes aim at politicians

US President Donald Trump, Brexit, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Germany's right-wing AfD party: Floats unveiled Tuesday for this year's Carnival parades in Cologne and Mainz once again turn to political satire to entertain revellers.

Barcelona police open fire on stolen lorry laden with gas canisters

Security forces in Barcelona opened fire on a stolen lorry laden with gas canisters to bring a rampage through the city to an end, police in the Spanish city said on Tuesday.

Stuttgart to issue bans on high-polluting diesel vehicles from 2018

Most diesel vehicles will be banned from roads in the southern German city of Stuttgart during times of heavy pollution, a bid to clean up the city's air, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg decided Tuesday.