Pop star George Michael dead at age 53

World Today

British singer 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, Dec. 25, 2016. He was 53. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

Grieving fans mourned the death of pop star George Michael as British charities praised his behind-the-scenes generosity on behalf of numerous causes.

CCTV’s Olly Barratt reports.

Pop star George Michael dead at age 53

Grieving fans mourned the death of pop star George Michael as British charities praised his behind-the-scenes generosity on behalf of numerous causes. CCTV's Olly Barratt reports.

The singer’s death was announced late Sunday. Many paid tribute on Facebook and Twitter and others cited years of good works that received little publicity.

Fans placed flowers and other tributes at his homes in north London and in Goring, England, where he died of apparent heart failure.

George Michael’s death brought back memories in China of the heady 1980s when Wham! was the first major Western band to play in the country after the death of Mao Zedong.

Many Chinese who had never even heard of the band lined up for hours to buy $1.75 tickets to the groundbreaking April 1985 concert at the People’s Gymnasium, the biggest stadium in Beijing at the time.

Inside the 12,000-strong stadium seated spectators watched in bewilderment as Michael and Andrew Ridgeley danced in big-shouldered jackets with bleached and feathered hair. The backing dancers’ strapless costumes and polka-dot miniskirts also stunned the audience in China at a time when people still dressed in similar shades of green and gray.

“It was the first time a Western band had come to China, everyone was ready to make some noise and stand,” said Li Ji, a restaurant owner who went to the concert in his 20s. “But there were so many police officers there, people didn’t dare to.”

Wham!’s manager Simon Napier-Bell had spent 18 months persuading the Chinese government to let them in and secure their place as one of the world’s biggest bands by telling them it would help them attract foreign investment.

While young Chinese today don’t know the names George Michael or Wham!, many instantly recognize his well-loved songs “Last Christmas” and “Careless Whisper.” The latter song had already been translated into Chinese and sung in several versions before the 1985 concert.

This story is by The Associated Press.