The former Wham! star, who sold more than 100million records, died peacefully at home aged just 53
The Wham! singer and solo performer enjoyed a glittering chart career, having sold more than 100 million records including seven number one singles in the UK, with tracks such as Careless Whisper and Faith.
He carved out an international name for himself, but brushes with the law and tales of his drug use increasingly made more impact than his musical output.
The hit machine slowed, chart positions faltered and incidents of drug possession, driving offences and personal problems became the chief reasons for his occasional returns to the spotlight.
Michael entered a period of semi-retirement in 2008, quitting live performances and seeking a “quieter life” out of the public eye.
Michael – born Georgios Panayiotou – found fame as a teenager in the early 1980s after forming Wham! with school friend Andrew Ridgeley .
The pair enjoyed hit after hit, including Club Tropicana, Young Guns (Go For It) and Last Christmas.
But they decided to bow out at the top, pulling the plug on their partnership with a final chart-topping single The Edge Of Heaven in 1986 and triumphant Wembley shows.
Michael then embarked on a hugely successful solo career, plus occasional collaborations with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton John and Queen, after the death of Freddie Mercury .
His album Faith – which has been remastered and later released in 2010 – was a massive success in 1988.
But lengthy legal battles followed as he tried to free himself from a deal with record label Sony which effectively prevented new recordings (only to re-sign with them a few years later).
Things began to unravel further when, after years of refusing to be drawn on speculation about his sexuality, he was arrested in public toilets in Beverly Hills, California, in 1998 for engaging in a lewd act.
The incident forced him to disclose his homosexuality and his relationship with American Kenny Goss.
He later said his late 20s had been a very depressing time for him after he lost his partner, Anselmo Feleppa, to HIV and his mother died some time later.
He said: “I had my very first relationship at 27 because I really had not actually come to terms with my sexuality until I was 24.
“I lost my partner to HIV then it took about three years to grieve; then after that I lost my mother. I felt almost like I was cursed.”
He parodied the arrest incident in the video of 1998 single Outside, which reached number two, but he struggled to reach such heights again.
He did not help his cause when his satirical take on the relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush, Shoot The Dog, was released in 2002. He was branded a “washed-up pop pervert” by a US newspaper.
A further run-in with the law came in October 2006 when he was found slumped over the wheel of his car.
The following May he pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs and was banned from driving for two years.
In 2008 Michael took a step back from the public eye but less than a month later he was once again in the glare when he was cautioned for possession of class A drugs, which included crack cocaine, and class C drugs.
In September 2010 Michael received an eight-week prison sentence following an incident the previous July in which he crashed his Range Rover into a shop in north London.
He was also given a five-year driving ban after he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs and possessing cannabis.
In 2011, he officially announced the ending of a turbulent 15-year relationship with Goss – though he said that the pair had actually split around two years earlier.
In an attempt to relaunch his musical career, Michael performed a song from his new album during the closing ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Health scares dogged the last decade of his life.
Last year he publicly denied new allegations about drug-taking, describing them as “highly inaccurate”.
The star nearly died from pneumonia in late 2011.
After receiving treatment in a Vienna hospital, Michael made a tearful appearance outside his London home just before Christmas and said it had been “touch and go” whether he lived.
Before he appeared, he arranged for an assistant to bring out a plate of mince pies for the waiting media gathered outside.
It triggered a period of major anxiety which caused Michael to cancel his forthcoming Australian tour, and the singer later called it “basically by far the worst month of my life”.
Michael said he had been lucky to have become ill close to a hospital with suitable specialists, adding: “I have to believe that somebody thinks I’ve still got some work to do here.”
But he was to return to hospital just 18 months later with a head head injury following a bizarre incident on the M1 motorway when he fell from his vehicle on to the tarmac.
He died peacefully at his home over the festive period, the star’s publicist announced on Christmas Day.
Now the life and death of one of Britain’s greatest ever pop stars is being shown in new a documentary called George Michael Freedom Uncut.