Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson, the voice behind the iconic power ballads, It Must Have Been Love and Listen to Your Heart, has died aged 61.
The Swedish star achieved global success in the 1990s, alongside bandmate Per Gessle, with other hits including The Look, Joyride, Spending My Time, Fading Like a Flower, and Dangerous.
A statement from Fredriksson’s manager said the singer had died on Tuesday (local time) “following a 17-year long battle with cancer”.
The Swedish band sold a staggering 75 million albums worldwide, reports news.com.au.
The singer is survived by husband, muisc producer, Mikael Bolyos, 62, and their two children, daughter Ines Josefin, 26, and son Oscar, 23.
The 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”.
Fredriksson’s Roxette bandmate Per Gessle paid tribute to his musical partner, saying “things will never be the same”.
“Time goes by so quickly. It’s not that long ago we spent days and nights in my tiny apartment listening to music we loved, sharing impossible dreams,” he said.
“And what a dream we eventually 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.”
He also said: “You were a wonderful friend for over forty years.
“I am proud, honoured and happy to have shared so much of your time, your talent, your warmth, generosity and humour.
“All my love goes to you and your family. Things will never be the same.”
“Marie leaves us a grand musical legacy. Her amazing voice — both strong and sensitive — and her magical live performances will be remembered by all of us who was lucky enough to witness them,” Dimberg Jernberg Management said in a statement.
“But we also remember a wonderful person with a huge appetite for life, and woman with a very big heart who cared for everybody she met.”
Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002 after she had a seizure while jogging with her husband, and given a 25 per cent chance of survival.
She survived, but had health problems as a result of the radiation treatment she had received.
In 2005, Fredriksson told a Swedish newspaper that “it’s been three very difficult years, I’m healthy. I’m not receiving treatment any more.”
The band had been on hiatus ever since Fredricksson’s diagnosis but reformed in 2009 when she went to see her bandmate perform a solo concert in Holland, where she ended up on stage, in a surprise 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.”
The band reunited and began touring again in 2009, performing at the royal wedding of Sweden’s Princess Victoria.
She was able to perform until 2016, when she retired on doctor’s orders due to the effects of her illness.
A Facebook post at the time read: “Roxette were supposed to start the last leg of their massive RoXXXette 30th Anniversary Tour on June 3rd.
“However, singer Marie Fredriksson has been advised by her doctors to refrain from touring and as a consequence all the summer shows are cancelled.
“Their last performance was to be at the Grand Arena in Cape Town, South Africa on February 8 earlier this year.”
“It’s been an amazing 30 years! I feel nothing but joy and happiness when I look back on the Roxette world tours,” Fredriksson added. “All our shows and memories over the years will forever be a big part of my life.
“I’m particularly proud and grateful for coming back in 2009 after my severe illness and to have been able to take Roxette around the globe a couple of more times.
‘Sadly, now my touring days are over and I want to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful fans that has followed us on our long and winding journey.
“I look forward to the release of our album Good Karma in June — for me it’s our best album ever!”
Recalling Fredriksson’s dtermination to keep performing, even as her health detriorated, Gessle said: “She’s been amazing. I don’t know how many hundreds of concerts we did over the last five years and it was entirely thanks to her energy that it was possible to do.”
Fredriksson and Gessle met in the late 1970s, but didn’t form the band until 1986, at the suggestion of a record producer.
Previously, Fredriksson had had moderate success as a solo artist and Gessle had found some popularity with his band, Gyllene Tilder (translated as the Golden Age).
She had hit ballads such as Faith and Still Smelling Love — which she sang at Princess Madeleine’s wedding in 2013.
Initially, Roxette had hits in Sweden but, famously, broke the American market after an exchange student took their second album back to Minneapolis and handed it to a radio station.
Word of mouth grew and, ultimately, they had four US number ones, Listen to Your Heart, Joyride, and – perhaps the best known of all – the power ballad It Must Have Been Love, which was included on the soundtrack to Pretty Woman.
The duo would go on to sell 75 million 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.
And though the radio hits dried up, the duo remained a popular touring act around the world.
In an interview with the Herald Sun’s Cameron Adams in 2014, Gessle spoke about why the band continued to enjoy touring success long after their smash hit heyday.
“The music business has been crazy over the last decade, things changed so much,” Gessle said.
“If you’re not in the spotlight people lose interest. The reason we can still sell so many tickets is because we have a magnificent catalogue of songs. We have had so many hits.
“Today in Top 40 music it’s rare to get to build a catalogue like that. Everyone is famous for 15 minutes, they get a few hits if they’re lucky and then they’re gone. Everyone wants the new thing or the next thing.
“But we have this great catalogue of songs people grew up to, got married to. There were a lot of hits, sometimes I even forget how many we had. We had seven fantastic years, 1988 to 1995, we pumped out all these songs. Great times.”
Featured Image: Roxette perform in Brisbane in 2012. Photo / nzherald