Photo: Mattias Edwall roxette.se
By Keith Sharp
With the inevitable passing of major rock stars, it’s not surprising that the December 9th death of Roxette’s Marie Fredriksson would slide under the radar. Yet any fan of 90’s pop will readily remember hit songs like “The Look”, “Listen To Your Heart” “It Must Have Been Love” and “Joyride” made famous by Fredriksson and her Swedish cohort Per Gesse.
Fredriksson, who lost a lengthy battle with a brain tumour at the age of 61, had teamed with Gesse to create a band that in its heyday, was equally as successful as Sweden’s other prime exports ABBA. Their second album, `Look Sharp’ featured “The Look” and “Listen To Your Heart” and achieved mega global success when “It Must Have Been Love” was a featured soundtrack on the 1990 Pretty Woman movie release featuring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The album not only topped the U.S charts but eventually went No 1 in 25 other countries.
As both Fredriksson and Gesse would tell Music Express when I interviewed them at the New York office of Capitol Records in 1989, their U.S breakthrough was sparked solely by a U.S exchange student called Dean Cushman who was studying in Sweden and brought a copy of their second album ‘Look Sharp’ back to Minneapolis for his Christmas vacation in 1988.
The album had been released in Sweden in 1986, had topped the domestic charts but every U.S label had passed on them including Capitol.
But when Cushman loaned his copy to a disc jockey at KDWB 101.3, the deejay started spinning a specific track, “The Look” and suddenly, the song became a regional hit. Capitol picked up on the track’s success, eventually released the album which became a global success, helped greatly by the exposure “It Must Have Been Love” received from `Pretty Woman”.
My most vivid memory of the interview was sitting in a corridor at Capitol’s New York office, waiting to execute my interview which had been delayed. So this young chap walks up to me, apologizes for the delay and passed me a bottle of orange juice. I assumed he was a member of the Capitol promo staff until I eventually arrived in the board room and discovered my gracious host was actually Per Gesse, one half of the group!
The duo was obviously excited about visiting New York, they had been sightseeing and were wide-eyed about all the sights and big buildings. Although both were dual lead vocalists, Gesse was aware that Fredriksson was the band’s voice and all their current and future hits would focus on her vocal talents.
This continued with their third album, and second U.S release, `Joyride’ which sparked a 107-date World Tour performed before 1.5 million fans yet although future albums like `Tourism’ (1992) and `Crash Boom Bang (1994) also sold well internationally, sounds were changing in North America and with the advent of Grunge Music and the consolidation of Capitol and EMI in the States, Roxette struggled to retain their status.
A concussion suffered by Fredriksson in 2002, resulted in the discovery of a brain tumour and although she made a recovery, Fredriksson took time off while Gesse went back to his former band Gille Tider. They would eventually reunite in 2009 and released three more albums while touring sporadically, the last one, `Good Karma’ released in 2016. But Fredriksson’s failing health forced her to stop touring and she finally succumbed to her illness December 9th. The day after her death, a YouTube posting of “It Must Have Been Love” on Roxette’s official channel received over 430 million views.
In paying homage to his partner, Gesse noted that Marie Fredriksson was “an outstanding musician, a master of the voice and an amazing person.”