Marie Fredriksson, from Roxette, died on December 9, 2019

Marie Fredriksson

Gun-Marie Fredriksson, known as Marie Fredriksson, (May 30, 1958 – December 9, 2019) was a Swedish pop singer, songwriter, pianist and painter, best known as the lead vocalist of soft rock duo Roxette, alongside Per Gessle. Roxette achieved international success in the late-1980s and early-1990s with their albums Look Sharp! (1988) and Joyride (1991), and had six top two hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “The Look”, “Listen to Your Heart”, “Dangerous”, “It Must Have Been Love”, “Joyride” and “Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)”.

Gun-Marie Fredriksson was born in Sweden on May 30, 1958. She was the youngest of five children of Charles Gösta Fredriksson (1914–1981) and Inez Dagmar Fredriksson (1922–1998). With both parents in full-time employment but unable to afford child care, Marie and her siblings would often be left unaccompanied at home while their parents worked. It was during this time, that she learned how to sing, read notation and play musical instruments. She also credited her pastor with encouraging her love of music.

Her interest in music continued to grow throughout her teens, as she discovered artists such as The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple. She enrolled in a music school at the age of seventeen, and befriended students from the theatre department by composing music for their amateur plays. Since no other vocalist in the school could emulate Fredriksson’s vocal range, she joined the cast of a musical she co-wrote. This musical toured throughout Sweden, with its run finishing with a performance in Stockholm for Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.

After graduating from music school in 1977, Marie Fredriksson moved to Halmstad, where she worked in theatre before becoming involved in the local indie music scene. She formed punk group Strul (hassle) in 1978 and they auditioned extensively for Swedish record labels, but weren’t offered a recording contract until 1981. In spite of this, they established their own independent music festival in 1979, “Strulfestivalen”, which was financially lucrative for the band. The festival was held each summer for three years, until 1981.

The group’s popularity increased substantially in 1981, culminating in several performances on Swedish music television. This exposure led to Strul signing with independent record label Bastun, which released their first and only single in June, the double A-side “Ki-I-Ai-Oo” / “Strul igen”. The release was timed to coincide with the 1981 version of “Strulfestivalen”, which would be the last; three months later, the group permanently disbanded following a “disastrous” performance at the “Pop Around the Clock” festival, which was broadcast nationally on Swedish radio.

Fredriksson’s next project, MaMas Barn (MaMas Children) signed with CBS Records International in 1982 before the label was sold to WEA International, who financed the recording of their only album, Barn som barn (English: Children as Children). The album was produced by ABBA guitarist Finn Sjöberg and released in November 1982, to critical success. But the record struggled commercially, only selling about 1,000 copies, and the group disbanded shortly after.

Marie Fredriksson was invited to audition for producer Lars-Göran “Lasse” Lindbom who, impressed with her voice, offered her a contract as a solo artist on EMI Sweden. Although she initially refused the deal, saying she was “too nervous” and “lacked the confidence” to be a solo artist, she performed duet vocals on “Så nära nu” (“So Near Now”), a song released as the lead single from the Lasse Lindbom Band’s 1982 album Romantisk Blackout. The album was successful in Sweden, and she joined Lindbom’s band as a featured vocalist for an extensive tour of the country. Following its completion in the autumn of 1983, Fredriksson recorded backing vocals for Gyllene Tider’s debut English album The Heartland Café, released in Sweden under the band’s original name, and in EP format in North America under the name Roxette, derived from the Dr. Feelgood song of the same name.

On Gessle’s insistence, Fredriksson agreed to embark on a solo career in late 1983, recording her debut album from December 1983 to June 1984, with Lindbom as co-writer and producer. “Ännu doftar kärlek” (“Still the Scent of Love”) was issued as her debut single in May 1984, becoming a top twenty hit on Sweden’s national record chart. Her debut album, Het vind (English: Hot Wind), was released in September, and also peaked within the top twenty. The album was promoted by a three-month double bill concert tour, featuring Fredriksson performing as a solo artist alongside Lindbom’s eponymous band. The title track was issued as the second and final single in October.

Her first solo tour took place from March to June 1985, after which she performed vocals for Spännande Ostar (Exciting Cheeses). This cover band appeared on several Swedish television programmes, and consisted of Fredriksson and Lindbom performing alongside Per Gessle and Mats Persson. The same year, Fredriksson and Lindbom travelled to the Canary Islands to write songs for her second solo album. Den sjunde vågen (English: The Seventh Wave) was released in February 1986 and peaked at number six, selling over 90,000 copies. “Den bästa dagen” (“The Best Day”) and “Silver i din hand” (“Silver in Your Hand”) were issued as singles, while the title track and “Mot okända hav” (“Toward Unknown Seas”) were top ten hits on Sweden’s airplay-based chart. She won the 1986 Rockbjörnen award for Best Swedish Female Artist, and embarked on her second tour as a solo artist.

EMI Sweden’s managing director, Rolf Nygren, suggested Gessle translate one of his Swedish compositions to English and record it as a duet with Fredriksson. The resulting song, “Never ending Love”, was issued under the band name Roxette. The track peaked at number three on the Swedish Singles Chart, and was one the most popular songs on Swedish radio that year. Their debut album, Pearls of Passion, was a major success upon release in October 1986, peaking at number two in Sweden and eventually selling over 200,000 copies, but it failed to chart internationally. Roxette embarked on their first tour in the summer of 1987, “Rock runt riket” (“Rock Around the Kingdom”), a 15-date co-headlining tour with Eva Dahlgren and Ratata.

Marie Fredriksson’s third studio album, Efter stormen (After the Storm), was issued in October 1987 and reached number one, selling over 50,000 copies within a month of release, and was certified platinum by the Swedish Recording Industry Association for shipments in excess of 100,000 units. Both the title track and “Bara för en dag” (“Just for a Day”) were top ten hits in Sweden, and she promoted the album with a sold-out concert tour.

Roxette released their second studio album, Look Sharp! on 21 October 1988, selling over 140,000 copies in Sweden within ten days of release, but failed to chart internationally.

Two weeks later, EMI released Den flygande holländaren (English: The Flying Dutchman), a tribute album to musician Cornelis Vreeswijk, who died the previous year. Fredriksson performed three songs on the compilation. One of these, “Felicia – Adjö”, became her first number one in Sweden. Den flygande holländaren peaked at number two for three consecutive weeks, where it was held off the top spot by Look Sharp! The compilation was certified double platinum there, denoting shipments in excess of 200,000 units. The non-album single “Sparvöga” (“Sparrow-eye”) was recorded as the theme music for a mini-series of the same name, and became both her highest-peaking and best-selling single to date when it was issued in February 1989. Fredriksson won the award for Pop/Rock Female at the 1989 Grammis, the Swedish equivalent of the Grammy Awards, as well as the Rockbjörnen award for Best Swedish Female, for the fourth consecutive year.

“The Look” was issued as the third single from Look Sharp! in Sweden, and was a top ten hit in January 1989. The following month, the track unexpectedly entered the US Billboard Hot 100, despite the duo not having a recording contract in the US, with the local branch of EMI previously having rejected Roxette as “unsuitable for the American market.” “The Look” topped the chart after just eight weeks, and went on to peak at number one in a total of 25 countries, and the album, Look Sharp!, eventually sold over 9 million copies worldwide. “Listen to Your Heart” was their second number one on the Hot 100, and the album’s final single, “Dangerous”, spent two weeks at number two.

In 1990, Touchstone Pictures approached Gessle to compose a song for the upcoming film Pretty Woman. As he did not have time to compose a new song, with Roxette on their first international concert tour, a new edit of their 1987 single “It Must Have Been Love” was created, and featured prominently in the movie. The track became their third number one on the Hot 100, and remains one of Roxette’s best-known and most successful singles. The following year, the duo released their third album, Joyride, which remains their most successful, with worldwide sales of over 11 million copies. The title track gave them their fourth and final number one on the Hot 100, while “Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)” peaked at number two. The album was promoted by the “Join the Joyride! Tour”, their biggest and widest ranging tour ever.

Fredriksson met her husband, keyboardist Mikael “Micke” Bolyos, during the Australian leg of “Join the Joyride!” in December 1991, and later said “If we hadn’t met, I don’t know if I would have been able to continue in Roxette much longer. I couldn’t handle the personal side of life on tour. I was hanging out in bars, drinking too much. I was sad a lot of the time and had a hard time with the press, when I always had to be nice and say the right things, always having to be available to everybody, always putting on a smile and being happy. Marie Fredriksson the performer had grown in stature, at the expense of Marie the private person. I had less and less space to be myself. And when I was myself I felt uncertain, small and lost.”

The couple married in a private ceremony in May 1994, which was attended only by immediate family members. Fredriksson and Bolyos had two children: a daughter named Inez Josefin and a son named Oscar Mikael.

Marie Fredriksson returned to solo work following the recording of Roxette’s fourth album, Tourism. She was a featured vocalist on “Änglamark” (“Angel Land”), a Band Aid-style recording spearheaded by former ABBA vocalist Anni-Frid Lyngstad under the banner Artister för Miljö (Artists for the Environment), which was released in July 1992. She also performed the track alongside all of the other featured artists during a televised gala the following month. Den ständiga resan (The Eternal Journey) was released that October, and remains both her highest-selling and most critically successful studio album, with sales of over 185,000 copies in Sweden as of 2002. She was nominated for three awards at the 1993 Grammis, including Songwriter of the Year and Artist of the Year, winning the latter. “Så länge det lyser mittemot” (“As Long as There Is Light on the Other Side”) and “Mellan sommar och höst” (“Between Summer and Autumn”) were issued as commercial singles; the latter song, “Så stilla så långsamt” (“So Still, So Slow”) and “Det regnar igen” (“It’s Raining Again”), were also top ten hits in Sweden.

Her first musical collaboration with husband Mikael Bolyos, “Herren ber för dig” (“The Lord Prays for You”), was released in November 1994 on the charitable compilation Vilda fåglar: sånger om barn (Wild Birds: Songs About Children), the proceeds of which were donated to children’s hospitals in Nordic territories.

Her fifth solo album, I en tid som vår (In a Time Like Ours), was recorded by Fredriksson and Bolyos at their home studio between February and September 1996. She was eight months pregnant when it was released in November, and so refused to publicly promote it. The album peaked at number two on Sverigetopplistan, and the first single “Tro” became the longest-charting song of her career on the Swedish Singles Chart, either as a solo artist or as part of Roxette; reaching number eight and spending a total of 29 weeks on the chart.

Fredriksson and Gessle collaborated on a new Roxette album throughout 1997 and 1998, and Have a Nice Day was eventually released in February 1999. She was more involved in its composition and production than on previous Roxette releases, recording numerous demos at her home studio and singing lead vocals on ten of the album’s fourteen songs. The record includes “Waiting for the Rain”, the first Roxette song written and composed solely by Fredriksson. Prior to its release, the duo signed a new recording contract with their long term record label EMI, which saw Fredriksson obtaining full control of the copyrights to her entire discography.

Her first greatest hits album, Äntligen – Marie Fredrikssons bästa 1984–2000, was released in 2000, and was the second best-selling album of the year in Sweden, behind the Beatles Compilation 1. It was also one of the best-selling albums of 2001, and was certified triple platinum for shipments of almost 250,000 units.

In 2001, Roxette released their seventh album, Room Service. Marie later said she “lost all desire to continue Roxette”, and would appear at the recording studio as infrequently as possible, instructing her taxi driver to wait outside while she recorded vocals for “Milk and Toast and Honey”. The album was supported with a European tour, after which Fredriksson “called for a meeting” with Gessle, where they agreed to disband Roxette.

Marie Fredriksson issued a box set containing all of her previous studio albums, Kärlekens guld (Love’s Gold), in June 2002.

Roxette scheduled the release of two new compilation albums, The Ballad Hits and The Pop Hits, which were to be promoted with performances at the 2002 edition of the pan-European orchestral concert series “Night of the Proms”.

On September 11, 2002, Fredriksson complained of feeling unwell after jogging with her husband. She collapsed in a bathroom after becoming nauseous, with the impact of the fall fracturing her cranium. Scans later showed that she had a brain tumour in the back of her head. The diagnosis led to the cancellation of Roxette’s “Night of the Proms” appearances. After waiting several weeks for the effects of the fracture and resulting concussion to subside, she underwent successful surgery to remove the tumour, which was malignant, and she then endured months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

In January 2003, King of Sweden Carl Gustaf XVI awarded Roxette the Litteris et Artibus (Culture and Education) award. Both Gessle and Fredriksson attended the ceremony, which was the first event Fredriksson appeared after her operation, and one of the very few public appearances she made over the next two years.

Lasting effects of the tumour included being blind in one eye, having limited hearing and mobility, being unable to read or write, and she was also unable to speak for a considerable period of time after her treatment. In October 2005, Marie Fredriksson conducted an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, saying: “It’s been three very difficult years, but I’m healthy. I’m not receiving treatment anymore.”

Following her diagnosis and treatment, Fredriksson and Bolyos began work on her next studio album as a form of therapy at their home studio. The Change debuted at the top of the Swedish Album Chart, and was certified gold for shipments in excess of 30,000 units. It ended 2004 as the 18th bestselling album in the country and was also her first studio album to receive a worldwide release.

Despite being unable to read or write, Fredriksson rediscovered her love of drawing during her illness, and began using charcoal to create artwork as another form of therapy. She drew the cover art which accompanied The Change, and held her first art exhibition in Stockholm in October 2005. Every painting displayed at the exhibition was sold by the end of the second day. She held further art exhibitions in both Stockholm and Gothenburg in 2008.

In February 2006, she released an album of Swedish cover songs titled Min bäste vän (My Best Friend), which peaked at number three on the Swedish Albums Chart. Later that year, she collaborated with Gessle on the recording of two new Roxette songs: “One Wish” and “Reveal”, which were released on the greatest hits compilation A Collection of Roxette Hits: Their 20 Greatest Songs!

“Där du andas” (“There You Breathe”) was released in August 2008 as the theme song to the film Arn – The Kingdom at Road’s End, which became Fredriksson’s first number one single in her home country of Sweden. During the winter of 2008, she took part in the “Stjärnklart” (“Starlit”) series of concerts, which saw her performing an abbreviated set alongside other vocalists in Swedish concert halls.

Roxette reunited for a private performance at the Wedding of Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, and Daniel Westling at Stockholm Palace on 18 June 2010. Roxette then embarked on a seven-date tour of Europe in the summer of 2010. “She’s Got Nothing On (But the Radio)” was released in January 2011, becoming a big hit in Europe, and their highest-peaking single in Germany since 1992’s “How Do You Do!”. Their eighth studio album, Charm School, followed the next month. “The Neverending World Tour”, their first world tour in fifteen years, began in March 2011, eventually concluding in February 2016. Another studio album, Travelling, was released in March 2012. In June 2013, Fredriksson performed “Ännu doftar kärlek” at the Wedding of Princess Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill. In November, she released Nu! (Now!), her first album of original Swedish material since 1996.  It was supported by a nineteen-date tour of Swedish concert halls, her first solo concerts since 2000.

Roxette’s tenth studio album, Good Karma, was released in June 2016, and was due to be promoted with a European tour celebrating the duo’s 30th anniversary. However, these concerts were cancelled after Marie Fredriksson was advised by her doctors to cease all touring activity, due to poor health. She released a statement saying: “Sadly, now my touring days are over and I want to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful fans that have followed us on our long and winding journey.”

Fredriksson released three non-album singles after she announced her retirement from touring: “Alone Again” and “I Want to Go” in 2017, and “Sing Me a Song” in 2018. Bolyos confirmed that these songs had been recorded several years prior to their release, and expressed doubt as to whether Fredriksson would release another album.

Marie Fredriksson died on December 9, 2019 in Djursholm, Sweden, at the age of 61, from a recurrence of a previous brain tumour.

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  1. Pingback: Musicians who died in 2019 | Dead Musicians

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