His talents as a singer, songwriter and music producer made George Michael one of the world's biggest-selling artists.
Blessed with good looks and a fine singing voice, his stage presence made him a favourite on the live concert circuit as he matured from teen idol to long term stardom.
George Michael has sold more than 80 million records worldwide in a career spanning four decades. He first found fame with schoolfriend Ridgeley in duo Wham! - reaching number one in the UK singles charts on four occasions. One of the band's most enduring songs Last Christmas, is currently number 16 in the UK singles chart.
The song was originally released in 1984 and is the biggest selling single not to reach number one.
It was kept off the chart's top spot by Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas, which actually featured Michael.
Solo albums followed, including the multi-million selling Faith in 1987.
The follow-up Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 outsold Faith in the UK but led to Michael losing a court case with record label Sony over his frustration at how the album has been marketed.
He was best known in the 1980s and 1990s with his style of post-disco dance-pop, with best-selling songs such as "Last Christmas" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go".
After years of refusing to be drawn on speculation about his sexuality, Michael disclosed he was gay in 1998 after being arrested in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, California, for engaging in a lewd act.
The music video for the single that followed, Outside, featured a men's bathroom transformed into a disco and policemen kissing.
Michael remained a strong musical force throughout his career, releasing dozens of records and touring to adoring crowds despite a growing number of run-ins with police, many of them stemming from incidents involving driving under the influence of drugs.
He was an admitted user of marijuana and prescription sedatives and several times was found slumped over his car's steering wheel after using both at the same time.
Michael was active in a number of charities and helped raise money to combat AIDS, help needy children, and support gay rights.
He had a long-term relationship with Kenny Goss, but announced onstage in August 2011 that the two had broken up.
George Michael died peacefully at his home in Oxfordshire, England, on Christmas Day.
"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," his publicist said in a statement.
"The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time.
"There will be no further comment at this stage."
His publicist, Cindi Berger, said he had not been ill.
Police issued a statement calling the death "unexplained but not suspicious" and said a post mortem would be performed.
Michael's manager, Michael Lippman, later said the cause of death was heart failure. No other details were released.