George Michael dead at 53

Ex-Wham! singer George Michael has died at 53, his publicist has confirmed.

"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 star's publicist said in a statement to the BBC.

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

Police say there were no suspicious circumstances.

Sir Elton John posted on Instagram that he was "in deep shock" at news of his friend's death.

"I have lost a beloved friend - the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist," Sir Elton wrote. "My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans."

The artist began his career with Wham! in the 1980s, and soon became one of the biggest pop stars, selling over 100 million albums in his career.

However, his fame had a dark side.

In 2007 Michael told British radio show Desert Island Discs he had a problem with cannabis and wanted to smoke less of it. In 2009 he told The Guardian he had cut his use of the drug to "seven or eight" joints a day.

Michael drove his Range Rover into a London storefront in July 2010, and was later charged with being in possession of cannabis and of driving under the influence. He spent four weeks in jail as a result.

The singer followed that up with some near-death events.

He was unconscious for three weeks at the end of 2011 after falling ill with pneumonia.

In May 2013 Michael received a head injury when he fell out of his moving vehicle on a British motorway - apparently when he was completely sober. He spent almost a fortnight in hospital.