George Michael's funeral held in private

Musician George Michael has been laid to rest in London after his death on December 25, 2016.
George Michael (above, in 2008) was found dead at his home on Christmas Day.
George Michael (above, in 2008) was found dead at his home on Christmas Day.PHOTO: AFP
A car drives past members of the media outside Highgate Cemetery in London, March 29, 2017.
A car drives past members of the media outside Highgate Cemetery in London, March 29, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - George Michael's funeral took place in private on Wednesday (March 29), three months after his shock death at the age of 53, the legendary British pop star's publicist said.

The singer was found dead at his home on Christmas Day, but it was not until the coroner's ruling earlier this month - that he died of natural causes - that he could be laid to rest.

"Family and close friends gathered for the small, private ceremony to say goodbye to their beloved son, brother and friend," his spokesman said.

"George Michael's family would like to thank his fans across the world for their many messages of love and support." The ceremony took place at Highgate Cemetery in the singer's native north London, newspapers reported.

His partner Fadi Fawaz, as well as Andrew Ridgeley, the other half of his pop duo Wham!, and Martin Kemp of 1980s new wave band Spandau Ballet were pictured attending.

The Daily Mail said it was understood that Michael would be buried alongside his mother.

The cause of death was dilated cardiomyopathy with myocarditis and fatty liver, according to Darren Salter, senior coroner for Oxfordshire, northwest of London.

Fawaz said he had found the star, who enjoyed a 35-year career punctuated by years of drug-taking, "lying peacefully" in bed at his home in the village of Goring on the River Thames on December 25.

Dilated cardiomyopathy, which can be caused by substance abuse, affects the heart's ability to pump blood due to the muscle becoming enlarged and weakened. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart wall.

SOULFUL VOCALIST

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou to a Greek Cypriot father and English mother in north London in 1963, Michael shot to fame with Wham! and sold more than 100 million records in his career.

A soulful vocalist, he met Ridgeley at high school and the pair formed Wham! in 1981.

With their good looks, perma-tans, highlighted hair and carefree image, the duo captured the spirit of the 1980s and fast became one of Britain's biggest pop acts with a string of hits including Last Christmas and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

Michael only revealed in public that he was gay in 1998 after being arrested by police in Los Angeles for allegedly engaging in a lewd act in a public toilet.

He went on to become a major campaigner and donor for gay rights and HIV charities.

Michael notched up police cautions for cannabis and crack cocaine possession in his final years and in 2010 was sentenced to eight weeks in jail after crashing his car into a London shop while under the influence of cannabis and prescription medication.

In 2011, he spent several weeks in hospital in Vienna after contracting pneumonia while on tour, later saying he had come close to death.

Stories about Michael's quiet but extensive philanthropy have been shared widely since his death.