Per Gessle with bandmate and best pal Marie Frediksson. Image Credit: AP

There's no two ways about it, the fight against "The Big C" begins with faith.

Marie Fredriksson had faith and won her war. Now she has an overwhelming ocean of love through music, something she believes will keep the "baddies at bay".

Probably the more famous half of Swedish duo Roxette, the band's lead singer was diagnosed with cancer when she fainted in her bathroom, knocking herself unconscious. Tests confirmed the worst — a malignant brain tumour — and the famous Joyride pair were no more.

This year, almost 10 years on and five years in remission, Fredriksson and bandmate Per Gessle embarked on a world tour as Roxette and the circus mania began once again.

"This is the best rehab in the world for Marie," said Gessle. "The love and affection she receives from fans is just phenomenal and keeps her so strong."

Roxette's planned performance at the 2002 Night of the Proms concert series was cancelled after the discovery of the tumour, which meant an operation as well as months of chemotherapy and radiation. Fredriksson was left with permanent damage to her brain, lost the ability to read and count and the vision in her right eye.

"She was so scared to come on stage," said Gessle, recalling the days before her first stage performance more than nine years later. "She had no self confidence and was broken. The reception was just amazing and it gave her so much back," he said fondly.

‘Awful news'

"We're talking a five per cent chance of survival, let alone the recovery on top of that," he said. "Everybody knows that they are not good odds."

Gessle, who writes both the music and lyrics for Roxette, said he will never forget the moment he found out about his musical "other half".

"I was on my way to a press conference in Germany and I received a phone call to hear Marie had fallen in the bathroom," he recalls. "It was a two-hour car journey from the press-con to the airport and my phone didn't stop ringing. I was in total shock when I found out from her husband just how sick she was. Just awful news to have to hear."

The pair met in the Swedish coastal town of Halmstad in the late '70s, but individual projects (and success, for that matter) kept them from a collaboration. It wasn't until 1986 that they finally agreed to join creative forces. Fredriksson and Gessle as Roxette came out of Sweden in the late '80s with one goal — to conquer the pop world.

Mission accomplished. With around 40 chart-topping singles and total record sales exceeding 75 million, the duo are best known for the songs It Must Have Been Love, Joyride and Listen To Your Heart.

In October 2009, a Swedish newspaper reported Roxette were recording new songs. The result was Charm School, released on February 11 this year with the first single, She's Got Nothing On (But The Radio), doing well. "Getting back together has been everything you could wish for and more," Gessle said, followed by a huge sigh. "It's fantastic and we didn't expect it.

"I was touring Europe and was doing a gig in Amsterdam when Marie joined me on stage for the first time. The crowd went wild and the reaction was completely overwhelming. It was like being hit by a wall of air. It's very hard to explain. We have been given a second chance — to do a world tour. It's actually incredible.

"After we reunited on stage, Marie called me and asked if I'd write a new album for Roxette and I said, ‘Of course,'" he added.

"We have done 19 shows so far and have many more to come. We will keep performing as long as there are people who want to see us. It is what we want to do, both for us and our fans."

A lucky decision for Dubai, as the pair take to the stage in the UAE on Friday at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

"I've heard it's pretty hot. That's about it," Gessle laughed when asked about Dubai. "I have friends who live there who are always asking us to visit, so it'll be nice to see them. Although they want to take us to lots of very fancy restaurants, I'm just not sure we're going to have the time. We can't wait to experience something new.

"There are still hundreds of people waiting to greet us at airports around the world. The support of people is unreal," he added. "They are what keep us going. Quite often I have ‘pinch me' moments. Sometimes, 30 seconds before I walk on stage I have that moment when I can't believe what is happening. How lucky we are."

Roxette entered the world of pop with The Look and Listen to Your Heart more than 22 years ago and had everything to prove. Now, thanks to timeless hits including It Must Have Been Love and the platinum-selling Joyride, the pressure is off.

With a seductive mix of romantic ballads and sassy pop classics, the songs still appear to hit all the right notes.

"We have a wonderful catalogue of songs. Could play for two hours without stopping. I am grateful, because it's never easy presenting new material and now we have nothing to prove."

One thing that has changed — for the better — says Gessle, is the "live sound" at concerts.

"It was pretty difficult once. I mean back then," he said. "In the '90s you wanted to make songs sound like they did on records, which depended on lots of technology and mixing at a live concert.

"Now we just sing," he said. "In the late '70s, that's what performing live was too. It's like it has come full circle and we survived," he said followed by a big sigh. "Survived we have. In more ways than one."

Roxette in 1987.

We asked gulfnews.com readers what their favourite Roxette track is. Here's how you voted


  • It Must Have Been Love — 51%
  • Listen to Your Heart — 20%
  • Dangerous — 6%
  • The Look — 5%
  • Joyride — 5%
  • Sleeping in My Car — 4%
  • Dressed for Success — 3%
  • How Do You Do — 2%
  • She's Got Nothing On (But the Radio) — 3%
  • Crash Boom Bang — 1%

It Must Have Been Love

We all know the song, the lyrics and if you're a big fan the film, but the famous song It Must Have Been Love nearly wasn't quite so famous.

Originally called It Must Have Been Love (Christmas For the Broken Hearted), the track was released in 1987 and received some attention in Sweden but only made it onto the Roxette album Pearls of Passion as a bonus track.

It wasn't until 1990 that a rewritten version (without the holiday references) hit the No 1 spot in both Europe and the US.

In 1989, Touchstone Pictures approached the band about contributing a song to the soundtrack of the romantic comedy Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Gessle said he picked the song, then two years old, because he didn't have time to write something new. Touchstone turned it down. A few weeks later, the producers re-requested It Must Have Been Love just asking Gessle to remove the Christmas lyrics.

Even then It Must Have Been Love didn't make it onto a Roxette album until Don't Bore Us, Get to the Chorus!, their 1995 greatest hits release.

The song has now topped charts in more than 20 countries with the most success in Germany, where the single spent nine months in the Top 75.

FACT: In 2005 the song was played more than 4 million times on American radio, earning songwriter Gessle a handful of music awards.

Don't miss it

Roxette perform at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday. Tickets, priced Dh300 for silver standing, Dh450 for gold standing, Dh550 for platinum seating and Dh1,250 for the M Premiere VIP lounge, are available at boxofficeme.com and Virgin Megastores. Doors open at 7pm, and the show starts at 9pm.