George Michael was no stranger to the headlines. His private life was often offered up for public consumption. But his philanthropy was not as widely reported.
Since his death, stories have emerged that reveal his generous, often spontaneous, acts of kindness.
The star often kept aside tickets for NHS staff at his concerts and once gave an entire special concert free of charge for nurses as a thank you for the care they had given his mother a decade earlier.
When she died of cancer in 1997, Michael described his mother as a “woman of great compassion”, adding: “She felt much as I do, that we were living in a world that was gradually being drained of that.”
Lynda Thomas, the chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We are extremely grateful to George and send our condolences to his family, friends and fans.”
Singer and activist Billy Bragg said: “His support for the LGBTQ community, the NHS and the miners marked George Michael out as an activist as well as a great artist.”
Childline’s founder and president, Dame Esther Rantzen, revealed that Michael had given the royalties from his 1996 number one single Jesus to a Child to the charity.
Thanks to the “millions” he had given, hundreds of thousands of children had been helped, she said.
The comic David Walliams said the singer pledged thousands of pounds for his charity efforts when he swam the Channel in 2006. The Little Britain star tweeted: “There are lots of stories about GeorgeMichael ‘s legendary generosity emerging today. When I swam the channel he gave sportrelief 50,000.”
The star, who lost his partner Anselmo Feleppa to an Aids-related illness in 1993, supported the Terrence Higgins Trust for many years, said the charity’s Jane Barron.
“We are so saddened by the loss of George Michael. George also often thought of us to kindly donate experiences and gifts that were used to raise vital funds to help us support people living with HIV,” she said.
“Along with other charities, we were grateful to benefit from the royalties of George’s 1991 duet with Elton John, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me. His donations contributed to a vision of a world where people living with HIV live healthy lives free from prejudice and discrimination.”
Michael was among the stars who produced the original Band Aid single Do They Know It’s Christmas? which sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and raised more than £19m for famine relief in Ethiopia.
He donated the royalties from Last Christmas/Everything She Wants to Ethiopian famine relief and proceeds from Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me went to the London Lighthouse Aids hospice and the Rainbow Trust children’s charity.
But it was the revelation that he was given to carrying out unplanned acts of generosity that gave fans comfort in the hours following his death. TV presenter Richard Osman revealed in a tweet that Michael had contacted a woman who appeared on Deal or No Deal to quietly give her the money she needed for IVF treatment.
Author and journalist Sali Hughes revealed that Michael had once tipped a barmaid £5,000 “because she was a student nurse in debt”.
She added that Michael was was the only star on the celebrity version of the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire who felt comfortable gambling with all the money he had raised for his chosen charity, because he had decided he would pay back the money out of his own pocket if he lost.
He was, said Hughes, an “absolute mensch”.
Actor Emilyne Mondo wrote that Michael had volunteered at a homeless shelter with her, but had asked the others there not to publicise the fact.
Beatles fans and Liverpudlians also paid tribute to Michael, who bought the piano John Lennon used to compose Imagine for £1.4m from a private collector in 2000.
He donated it to the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool, where it had previously been on loan, so that it could be kept in Lennon’s hometown for ever, saying it was “not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people”.