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Driving offences and drugs brought George Michael back into spotlight

By any measure George Michael has had a glittering chart career - but brushes with the law and tales of his drug use have increasingly made more impact than his musical output.

As a solo star and member of Wham! he has sold more than 100 million records and has had 11 number one singles in the UK, with tracks such as Careless Whisper and Faith.

The 47-year-old's fame has been global, including seven number ones in the US.

But the hit machine has slowed, chart positions have faltered and incidents of drug possession, driving offences and personal problems have been the chief reasons for his occasional returns to the spotlight.

Two years ago Michael entered a period of semi-retirement, quitting live performances and seeking a "quieter life" out of the public eye.

But less than a month later he was back in the glare when he was cautioned for possession of class A, which included crack cocaine, and class C drugs.

His last appearance in the top 10 was in 2004 and a Christmas single released last December climbed to just number 14 despite a devoted fanbase.

Michael - born Georgios Panayiotou - found fame as a teenager in the early 1980s after forming Wham! with schoolfriend 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 (singer-less following the death of Freddie Mercury).

His album Faith - which has been remastered and is due for release later this month - 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.

He has talked about his regular use of cannabis and an interview last year said he had cut down to "seven or eight" spliffs a day, from the 25 he once smoked.

In the same Guardian interview he talked openly about cruising Hampstead Heath, which is close to his north-west London home, for casual sex.

He added that he still continued to sleep with his partner: "Kenny gets his, believe me."