George Michael came out as gay in 1998, and became a pioneer in the LGBTQ community

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In his envelope-pushing 1987 hit “I Want Your Sex,” George Michael crooned: “I’ve waited so long baby/ Now that we’re friends/ Every man’s got his patience/ And here’s where mine ends/ I want your sex.”

Those were just some of the lyrics that led many U.S. radio stations to ban the risqué track, according to Rolling Stone. The headline-making song was one of the first singles off Michael’s debut solo album, Faith. And he would continue to garner attention in the decades to come with his unique take on sex and sexuality — initially guarded and later unapologetic.

The “Careless Whisper” singer came out as gay in 1998, two years after entering into a relationship with Kenny Goss. They split 13 years later.

Michael died of heart failure and was found in his home on Christmas Day, his rep told PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly. He was 53. Michael’s publicist confirmed that the iconic singer passed away “peacefully.”

As the world mourns the boundary-stretching icon, here are some of the late singer’s most famous statements on sex and sexuality:

  • “The media has divided love and sex incredibly … ‘I Want Your Sex’ is about attaching lust to love, not just to strangers,” Michael said in response to controversy surrounding the song, according to Rolling Stone, further explaining that the song was actually an ode to monogamy.
  • “I don’t think you can base your sexuality around anything other than the people you fall in love with. When I was younger I slept with men and women, and I didn’t fall in love at all,” Michael told The Advocate in 1999.
George Michael
Credit: Michael Putland/Getty
  • “I want to say I have no problem with people knowing that I’m in a relationship with a man right now,” Michael told CNN in 1998 when he came out as gay. “I don’t feel any shame.”
  • “I never had a moral problem with being gay,” Michael told The Advocate, noting that he thought he had fallen in love with a woman “a couple of times.” “I also thought I had with men — and then I realized none of those things had been love. I realized that I was just trying to work myself out.”
George Michael In Concert
Credit: Frank Hoensch/Getty
  • “For some strange reason, my gay life didn’t get easier when I came out. Quite the opposite happened, really,” ,” he told the BBC in 2014. That same year, he told PEOPLE that he has no regrets about waiting to come out: “Because it’s about family. In the years when HIV was a killer, any parent of an openly gay person was terrified. I knew my mother well enough that she would spend everyday praying that I didn’t come across that virus. She’d have worried like that.”
  • In 1998, Michael released “Outside,” which flicked at his arrest six months earlier in a public bathroom and prompted his coming out. The video cheekily features him dressed as an LAPD officer. In 2005 he addressed his inclination to shine a light on uncomfortable issues, telling The Guardian, “Gay people in the media are doing what makes straight people comfortable, and automatically my response to that is to say I’m a dirty filthy f—er and if you can’t deal with it, you can’t deal with it.”