Gaunt and breathless George Michael home in London

LONDON, Dec 23 — A gaunt and breathless George Michael today tearfully thanked his doctors and fans for seeing him through a “touch and go” bout with pneumonia.

A thin and visibly weak Michael told reporters outside his home in north London that he wasn’t supposed to speak for very long and was still recovering from a tracheotomy.

George Michael in this file photo at the Royal Opera House in London, May 11, 2011: Thin and visibly weak. — Reuters picGeorge Michael in this file photo at the Royal Opera House in London, May 11, 2011: Thin and visibly weak. — Reuters pic“I got streptococca-something...It’s a form of pneumonia and they spent three weeks keeping me alive basically,” Michael said of the doctors in the Austrian hospital where the singer had been treated since he fell ill last month.

The 48-year-old former Wham! frontman, who went on to pursue a successful solo career, was taken ill in the Austrian capital and diagnosed with severe pneumonia last month.

British press reports said that members of his family had travelled to be by his side at Vienna General Hospital.

Michael had been in the middle of a European tour when he became ill and was forced to cancel a string of dates.

Michael, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, burst on to the British pop scene in the early ’80s as the lead singer of Wham!, which had a string of catchy hits including “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas”.

He also found success as a solo artist with chart-toppers such as “Careless Whisper” and “A Different Corner”, and it was only a matter of time before he struck out alone.

His rich vein continued with the 1987 No. 1 “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”, in which he performed with Aretha Franklin, one of his favourite artists.

The same year he released “Faith”, an album that spawned a string of hit singles including “I Want Your Sex”, “Faith” and “Father Figure”, and earned the singer a Grammy.

It was his best-selling album, although he did top charts around the world with subsequent releases, enjoyed estimated career sales of 100 million records and amassed a personal fortune of £90 million (RM446 million).

When he was not hitting the airwaves with his music, Michael’s personal life was regularly in the headlines, most notably in 1998 when he was arrested in California for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public toilet.

After the incident he spoke openly about his homosexuality, and courted controversy again by speaking out against the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Michael told Reuters in a 2005 interview that he was withdrawing from public life, but the following year he launched his first tour in 15 years.

He had a string of run-ins with British police for possession of narcotics, and in September last year spent four weeks in jail for driving under the influence of cannabis.

Michael opened what was to be his final tour in Prague in August. — Reuters


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