Ed Sheeran, radio's favourite redhead and arguably the biggest male pop star in the world, shocked fans last week when he became the latest artist to announce he would be taking a break from music, at the age of 28.
After two years of touring, Sheeran wrapped up his 260th and final show in Ipswich, England and announced his hiatus, telling the crowd: "I love that you guys are here and we are ending it in Ipswich. This is my last gig for probably 18 months."
Sheeran, who grew up in Suffolk, England, self-released his first EP at 14, and dropped out of school three years later to move to London. After self-releasing three more albums, he moved to Los Angeles in 2010, where he was signed to Asylum Records after the label's head, Ben Cook, saw a clip of Sheeran online. He joined Elton John's Rocket Music Management in 2011.
"I did five EPs, all in different genres ending with a collaborations EP where I worked with all the underground rappers that I met," Sheeran told Billboard in 2014.
"That last EP that I put out did close to 10,000 copies in week one, without a label. So by the time I signed to Atlantic, I had a fan base that was buying CDs and I had the radio expectancy."
His album + debuted at No. 1 on the British chart in 2011, selling 102,000 copies its first week. In 2012, he opened for Snow Patrol on the US leg of their tour, around the time his first single, The A Team, was blowing up.
His first solo tour, a 31-show run in 2012, grossed over $US8 million ($A11.9 million), selling out New York's Radio City Music Hall before supporting Taylor Swift on her 2013 Red tour.
Sheeran has gone on to sell out Madison Square Garden, Wembley Stadium and countless other arenas around the world; is a four-time Grammy award winner and has released four studio albums. He has also collaborated with and written songs for everyone from One Direction and Taylor Swift to Justin Bieber and Pharrell Williams.
According to Pollstar, Sheeran's 260-show Divide Tour has beaten out U2's 360 tour as the highest-grossing of all time, at $US736 million ($A1.09 billion), almost $US700 million ($A$1 billion) more than his + tour. Kicking off in March 2017 and ending in August 2019, the tour was attended by more than nine million people.
The singer has a reported net worth of 160 million pounds ($A300 million).
The star has many a crazy, alcohol-related stories up his sleeve — the scar on his right cheek, courtesy of a ceremonial sword slash that occurred at a party thrown by Princess Beatrice at the Royal Lodge, near Windsor Castle in 2017. Sheeran says it was British singer James Blunt; others say it was Beatrice herself, but he's proved a bit of a dangerous friend to have.
When in Japan with Justin Bieber, Sheeran said things got a little out of hand after having one too many at a local dive bar. Bieber lay on the ground of a golf course and told Sheeran to hit a golf ball out of his mouth, but the singer missed and instead hit Bieber in the cheek with the club.
And in 2016, when touring an Icelandic volcano with wife Cherry, Sheeran ignored a guide's directions to not stray from a path, and when the earth collapsed beneath him, both feet were plunged into nearly 200-degree water and he had to be flown to hospital.
Sheeran, who has been described as a "hard-drinking superstar", said on The Jonathan Ross Show last October that he had found himself slipping into the typical industry pitfalls of alcohol and substance abuse.
"It just started gradually happening, and then some people took me to one side and were like, 'Calm yourself down'," said Sheeran.
"It's all fun to begin with, it all starts off as a party and then you're doing it on your own and it's not, so that was a wake-up."
Sheeran's surprise hiatus announcement was overshadowed by allegations that he ripped off Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On, on his 2014 track Thinking Out Loud, and is being sued by Structured Asset Sales (who own partial copyrights to Gaye's music) for $US100 million ($A148 million).
This isn't the singer-songwriter's first legal road bump; he's also been blocked from receiving royalties for his blockbuster hit Shape of You after musician Sam Chokri accused Sheeran of appropriating the music from Chokri's song, Oh Why.
Similarities between the 2017 hit and TLC's No Scrubs have also been noted, causing Sheeran to add the band to the songwriting credits and avoiding any legal issues that threatened to arise.
In addition to fellow artists, the star has also recently angered neighbours over a massive pond he built on his English estate, who call it a swimming pool that supports nothing but the star's own "wild lifestyle", as opposed to the "wildlife preservation" and "natural habitat for breeding and wetland invertebrates" he claims it is.
Following months of speculation, Sheeran confirmed in July that he and 27-year-old accountant, Cherry Seaborn, had married, after announcing their engagement in January 2018.
The duo, who have known each other since high school and reportedly have been dating since 2015, reconnected at an after-show party in New York.