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Stars react to death of George Michael: "He was an absolute inspiration"

Last Updated Dec 26, 2016 11:02 AM EST

As news of the death of British singer George Michael broke Sunday, celebrities, fans and musicians began offering condolences and expressing their sadness on social media. 

Michael, who rocketed to stardom with Wham! and went on to enjoy a long and celebrated solo career, died at the age of 53, his publicist confirmed Sunday to CBS News. 

His Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley wrote that he was “heartbroken.” 

British comedian and host of CBS’ “The Late Late Show” James Corden was on one of the first to offer up his condolences, tweeting: “I’ve loved George Michael for as long as I can remember. He was an absolute inspiration. Always ahead of his time.”

Elton John paid tribute to his “beloved friend,” a “generous soul and a brilliant artist.”

British pop star Robbie Williams paid tribute and wrote, “I love you George.” 

Queen guitarist Brian May wrote on Instagram that he had “no words.” Michael performed “Somebody to Love” with Queen at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in London in 1992. 

No words. RIP George. Bri

A photo posted by Brian Harold May (@brianmayforreal) on

Spice Girl Geri Halliwell posted a throwback photo of herself with Michael and called him “the kindest, most generous & talented person.” 

Madonna tweeted, “Farewell My Friend! Another Great Artist leaves us” — and threw in a final expletive about the tragic losses of 2016.

Many on social media referenced Wham’s song “Last Christmas” as it appeared Michael died over the Christmas holiday.

Fellow ’80s pop star Boy George tweeted a statement, calling the loss “devastating”: “I am thinking of @GeorgeMichael’s family, friends and fans right now. He was so loved and I hope he knew it because the sadness today is beyond words. Devastating. What a beautiful voice he had and his music will live on as a testament to his talent. I can’t believe he is gone. I hope the Buddha will hold him in his arms. NMRK.” (NMRK refers to a mantra chanted by practicing Buddhists.)

Others shared their sadness and disbelief in his passing. 

Michael enjoyed immense popularity early in his career as a teenybopper idol, delivering a series of hits such as “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” ‘’Young Guns (Go For It)“ and “Freedom.” 

As a solo artist, he developed into a more serious singer and songwriter, lauded by critics for his tremendous vocal range. He sold well over 100 million albums globally, earned numerous Grammy and American Music Awards, and recorded duets with legends like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti and Elton John.