Flamboyant jazz singer and author George Melly died on Thursday at the age of 80, his wife Diana said in a statement.

Melly had been suffering from lung cancer but refused all treatment. He also developed dementia. His last appearance was a performance in June at London's renowned 100 Club in aid of a dementia charity.

His wife said in a statement: "For 60 years he has been an acclaimed, popular and much-loved performer."

Melly, wit. raconteur and writer as well as jazz singer, was the author of three acclaimed volumes of autobiography in which he wrote frankly about his bisexuality and heavy drinking.

The latest volume, published as he approached his 80th birthday, was called "Slowing Down."

A peerless showman habitually bedecked in loud suits and a jaunty fedora, Melly was a man of many careers, switching in the 1960s to become film and television critic for The Observer.

He also lectured on art history, especially surrealism, and wrote the script for the Flook cartoon strip in the Daily Mail.

"As a surrealist, I quite enjoy having dementia," he once quipped, making light of his disabilities.

Melly, whose singing style was strongly influenced by his idol, American Blues singer Bessie Smith, returned to jazz in the 1970s, performing with John Chilton's Feetwarmers.

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