Singer, musician and composer known for Roxette

Born: May 30, 1958;

Died: December 9, 2019

MARIE Fredriksson, who has died aged 61 following complications from a brain tumour, was a strikingly dramatic singer, both solo, and with Roxette, the duo she formed in her native Sweden with Per Gessle in 1986. The sound they produced was a glossy mix of infectiously upbeat bombast and chic-but-strident power ballads that typified the high-end sheen of 1980s pop. Like Abba before them and Ace of Base later, Fredriksson and Gessle took Roxette’s stadium-sized sound out into the world, and the world bought their records in their millions.

This was the case when the white funk of breakout world-wide smash The Look was picked up by an American radio station. Further hits followed with Listen to Your Heart and Joyride, both accompanied by expensive looking videos that captured the aesthetic of the era. Fredriksson was at the centre of all this, a vision in PVC topped with a shock of spiky blonde hair that gave the duo a striking cyber-punk styled visual image that matched the melodrama of their songs.

This was especially the case on their biggest hit, It Must Have Been Love, which in 1990 was used in big-screen Julia Roberts/Richard Gere vehicle, Pretty Woman. Originally written as a Christmas song, its new version would go on to soundtrack many a slow dance in neon-lit nightclubs, and even though Roxette would release ten albums, it became the song that defined them.

This belied Fredriksson’s punky beginnings playing keyboards and singing backing vocals in Strul and MaMas Barn before a series of solo albums ultimately led to her alliance with Gessle. Fredriksson had decided she was going to be a singer aged eight, and started her first group, Renat, aged ten, performing on the pavement using fake instruments. She took piano lessons before starting to write her own songs. She also developed a love for the theatre, and later wrote music for school plays, with her dynamic vocal range also seeing her join the casts. Here were the seeds that eventually saw her take centre stage to become a true pop icon.

Gun-Marie Fredriksson was born in Ossjo, a village in Skane County, southern Sweden, the youngest of five children to farmer parents, Gosta and Inez. When she was four, the family moved to Ostra Ljungby, where her mother worked in a factory, while her father became a postman. Marie would often accompany him on his rounds, where he sang to her to encourage an interest in music that would eventually result in her joining Strul.

She was championed by Gessle after she sang on a record by his band, Gyllene Tider. Gessle thought her worth more than being stuck behind keyboards, and helped kickstart her solo career before they eventually joined forces as Roxette. Named after British band Dr Feelgood’s raw slice of rhythm and blues, Roxette went on to sell some 75 million records across ten albums, with Fredriksson also releasing eight solo works.

Fredriksson met her future husband, music producer Mikael Bolyos, while Roxette were on tour in Australia. It was a whirlwind romance, and they had two children.

In 2002, Fredriksson had a seizure in her bathroom and fractured her skull. A scan revealed she had a brain tumour. She survived, but had health problems as a result of radiation therapy. Roxette went on hiatus following Fredriksson’s illness, although she continued to record solo, and scored her first number 1 single in Sweden in 2008.

After making an impromptu guest appearance at a solo show by Gessle, in 2009, the emotional response of the fans boosted Fredriksson’s confidence enough for her to ask Gessle to reform Roxette, and the reunited duo released three more albums. While she was forced to give up performing in 2016, in 2018, she released a new single, Sing Me a Song, to mark her 60th birthday.

“Time goes by so fast,” said Gessle in a statement following Fredriksson’s passing. “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, Mikael Bolyos, and their two grown-up children, Inez Josefin Bolyos and Oscar Bolyos.