Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson dies aged 61

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Marie Fredriksson, who as the singer of Roxette was one of the most recognisable voices in 1980s and 90s pop, has died aged 61 following a long illness.

Her family said in a statement to Expressen, a newspaper in her native Sweden: “It is with great sadness that we have to announce that one of our biggest and most beloved artists is gone.”

In September 2002, Fredriksson had a seizure in her bathroom and suffered a cracked skull. A subsequent MRI scan revealed she had a brain tumour, and she was given a 25% chance of survival. She survived, but had health problems as a result of radiation therapy. She was able to perform until 2016, when she announced her retirement due to the effects of her illness.

Her partner in Roxette, Per Gessle, expressed his love for Fredriksson and her family, and said: “Things will never be the same.”

The pair, who first met in the late 1970s, formed in 1986 on the suggestion of a Swedish record executive. Fredriksson had had a moderate solo career, while Gessle had found success with his band Gyllene Tider, who had broken up after renaming themselves Roxette.

The duo had hits in Sweden, but it wasn’t until an American exchange student took their second album back to Minneapolis, and handed it to a radio station, that they became a word-of-mouth success in the US. Beginning with The Look in 1989, they had four US No 1 hits: Listen to Your Heart, Joyride, and – perhaps the best known of all – the power ballad It Must Have Been Love, which also reached No 3 in the UK and was included on the soundtrack to Pretty Woman.

The pair would go on to sell an estimated 75m records worldwide, and record 10 studio albums. Fredriksson also released eight solo albums, three of which topped the Swedish charts – she scored her first chart-topping solo single in 2008 with Där Du Andas. In May 2018, she released a new single, Sing Me a Song, to mark her 60th birthday.

Roxette had a hiatus while Fredriksson was treated for and recovered from her brain tumour, but reformed in 2009 after she went to see Gessle perform a solo show in Holland, and made an impromptu guest appearance. “She had no self confidence, and said she couldn’t sing any more,” Gessle told the Guardian in 2012. “But she staggered up on stage anyway – and the audience just died … people were crying to the left and right. Afterwards she was like a changed person and two weeks later she called me asking if I’d want to write another Roxette album.” They ended up releasing three more, with their final album, Good Karma, released in June 2016.

In a statement, Gessle paid further tribute to Fredriksson following her death: “Time goes by so fast. It feels like just recently when Marie and I were sitting in my little apartment in Halmstad sharing dreams. And what a fantastic dream we got to share! Thank you Marie, thank you for everything. You were a truly unique musician, a singer on a level we will hardly ever experience again. You painted my black and white songs with the most beautiful colours.”

Fredriksson is survived by her husband, music producer Mikael Bolyos, who she married in 1994, and their two children: Josefin Bolyos, 26, and Oscar Bolyos, 23.

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