The Untold Truth Of Roxette

For a few precious years when the world was young and the internet wasn't really a thing yet, an entity known as Roxette ruled the earth. As the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, the dynamic Swedish duo of the golden-voiced Marie Fredriksson and the raspy, 1980s-haired guitarist/songwriter/co-vocalist Per Gessle crafted a rapid-fire string of unavoidable hits, from the stomping pop rock of "The Look," "Joyride," and "Dressed for Success" to a significant portion of those weirdly dramatic ballads the era loved so much. They were what happens when an apparent one-hit wonder refuses to back down once their huge chart-topping song stops gaining traction, instead stubbornly churning out hit after hit after hit after hit after ... well, you get the drill. 

In the end, Roxette weren't quite ABBA, but they sure weren't Lou Bega, either. They might rarely get nods from critics on various "greatest bands of all time" lists, but if you were alive during their heyday (or if you just like to listen to retro stuff), you can almost certainly hum along to quite a few of their songs. But who were these mysterious Swedes? What made their hit-writing pen so unfathomably sharp? And what have they been up to since they stopped ruling the airwaves? There's only one way to find out. Let's take a look at the untold truth of Roxette.

What in the world is a 'Roxette,' anyway?

Okay, let's address the elephant in the room. What in the world does "Roxette" mean, anyway? Did someone attempt to write down the words "rock set" and get confused? Is it one of those terrifying portmanteaus where someone had a crush on a brunette called Roxanne and things got a little out of hand? Did Per Gessle stare way too long at a bowl of alphabet soup?  

All good guesses, though none of them correct. As AllMusic tells us, the name was actually lifted verbatim from the song "Roxette" by the British pub rock band Dr. Feelgood. Interestingly, the name didn't originally refer to the now-famous duo of Gessle and Marie Fredriksson. The moniker was originally adopted by Gessle's first successful group, Gyllene Tider, when they decided to go for international success and someone pointed out that their name wouldn't exactly awe the English-speaking world. In the end, Gyllene Tider disbanded before seeing whether they could achieve international superstardom, but Gessle and Fredriksson decided to keep the name "Roxette" alive with their new effort. It's probably fair to say that they were successful.

The origin story of Roxette

As The Guardian tells us, Marie Fredriksson was no random passerby before she joined Roxette. She already had a "moderate" music career before joining forces with Per Gessle, who'd made a rather big name for himself with his band Gyllene Tider (Golden Times), which AllMusic notes is one of Sweden's most popular bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The pair had known each other since the 1970s, and they'd organically started collaborating more and more. Gessle wrote a song for Fredriksson's 1984 solo debut Het Vind (Hot Wind), while Fredriksson often worked as a background vocalist for Gyllene Tider. 

Some sources say that the two eventually joined forces at the behest of a record executive in the mid-'80s, but it certainly appears that the two already held plenty of professional respect for each other before Gyllene Tider went on a two-decade hiatus after their Heartland Café album, and they weren't exactly opposed to working with each other. Still, regardless of who jump-started the Roxette engine, it certainly hummed beautifully.  

The death of Marie Fredriksson

Roxette, as we know it, no longer exists. Why? Well, tragically, Marie Fredriksson was one of the talented musicians we lost in 2019. The singer passed away at the age of 61 after a long battle with the kind of illness that makes the fact that the band released their last album (Good Karma) as recently as 2016 downright unbelievable. Fredriksson's health problems started in September 2002 when she had a seizure in her home and cracked her skull. The doctors soon discovered that she had a brain tumor and only had a 25 percent chance to survive. Fredriksson beat the odds and even rejoined Gessle for a Roxette comeback, but the radiation therapy that was required to defeat her ailment gave her health problems that never really went away. 

The exact nature of her ailments varies depending on the source. Some just keep it at "health troubles," while others such as Deutsche Welle choose to call cancer "cancer," and point out that her return to Roxette in 2010 was the result of said cancer going into remission. Regardless of the specifics, after her return to the limelight, she was able to work until 2016, when she ultimately announced the retirement she would never return from. As Metro notes, Per Gessle commented her passing, saying, "I'm proud, honored, and happy to have been able to share so much of your time, talent, warmth, generosity and sense of humor. All my love goes out to you and your family. Things will never be the same."

How Roxette became accidental superstars

The song that sent Roxette flying face-first at the international music scene was "The Look," a magnificent beast of a song that managed to combine cheesy synth pop, nonsensical lyrics ("Fire in the ice/Naked to the T-bone/Is a lover's disguise/Banging on the head drum"), and just a hint of rock 'n' roll danger into a stomping number that irresistibly juxtaposed various hooks, Per Gessle's raspy voice, and Marie Fredriksson's considerable vocal talent. 

Despite its obvious hit potential, however, it was hardly an instant success. In fact, as Gessle told the BBC, it was "pure luck" that "The Look" ever made it stateside in the first place. The group's album Look Sharp! was massive in Sweden, and an American exchange student happened to fall in love with it. When the kid, who The New York Times identifies as Dean Cushman, returned home to Minnesota in 1989, he made sure to go up to his local radio station and hand them a copy of Look Sharp, and after a few weeks, the guy responsible for the playlists got around to listening the album and was completely infatuated with "The Look." 

It turned out he wasn't the only one, and while the band's record label, EMI, had initially decided against releasing Look Sharp! in the U.S., the ensuing snowball effect was more than enough to change their minds. That's how a couple of (presumably rather surprised) Swedes got their big break. By 1991, they were such global superstars that their native Sweden's postal office released a Roxette-themed stamp. 

Solo careers, solo careers, solo careers

As Roxette's AllMusic profile reveals, neither Per Gessle nor Marie Fredriksson were content to harness their talents solely within the confines of their band. In fact, both of them had significant solo careers outside their main project, and both of them had their first solo albums out before Roxette was even formed. In fact, both of them have more solo albums out than Roxette ever released. 

Fredriksson usually sang her solo efforts in her native Swedish, with 2004's The Change as the only notable dip into English. Gessle, on the other hand, tends to give more or less equal attention to both languages, which is actually pretty fitting to his artist profile. After all, Roxette was huge in English, and his pre-Roxette group, Gyllene Tider, remains one of the more successful Swedish-language bands in history. 

While art is always subjective, an argument could be made that the most successful of the pair's solo records is Gessle's appropriately named 1997 effort The World According to Gessle, which Jason Damas of AllMusic rates at four-and-a-half stars. He also has a word to say about Gessle's approach to music, writing, "Gessle was never about being deep, he was about creating fun nuggets of three-minute pop, and he's never done it as well as on The World According to Per Gessle. Absolutely essential." 

Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson weren't an item

Roxette told you to "Listen to Your Heart," and because they were a tightly knit male-female duo, it makes sense that some people figured that "It Must Have Been Love" between Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle. However, it turns out that just because your co-worker is a member of the opposite sex doesn't mean the two of you are destined to hook up. As the book Rock Band Name Origins: The Stories of 240 Groups and Performers tells us, Fredriksson and Gessle were never romantically involved despite being a male-female group that toured together for years on end. 

Of course, as a 1990 interview with the Los Angeles Times reveals, the two were fully aware that people were drawing their own conclusions nevertheless, and the two weren't above having fun at the expense of unwary journalists who questioned their platonic work relationship. The interview starts with the two of them happily lying that they were a married couple going through a divorce ... before their poker face cracked, and they burst out laughing. After that, Fredriksson elaborated on the matter, saying, "People ask us all the time if we're married or romantically involved. They insist we are, but we're not. Some people probably don't believe us when we say we're not involved. So we joke about it sometimes. We're just friends who have a musical and a business relationship."

It's impossible to overestimate Roxette's success

Roxette's pop rock brand made sure they were hardly what you'd call critical darlings, and since their heyday was several decades ago, it may be hard to remember what a powerhouse they were in the 1990s. However, just a glance at their biggest Billboard hits is enough to remind anyone just how ubiquitous Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson were back then. Between 1989 and 1992 alone, the pair crafted no less than four Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 tunes: "The Look," "Listen to Your Heart," the Pretty Woman soundtrack hit "It Must Have Been Love," and "Joyride." If that wasn't enough, they also had five more songs that charted.

There's also the small matter of record sales. As Deutsche Welle reminds us, Roxette shifted units by the truckload in their prime, to the point that they've sold over 80 million albums over the course of their career, which makes them the second-best selling band in their country after a certain group called ABBA. In fact, they fare pretty well in comparison to just about anyone. For instance, John Nemo of Inc. notes that another popular '90s band, a little-known act called Nirvana, has "only" 75 million album sales to its name. 

The net worth of Roxette

Money. Everyone wants it, and everyone is secretly interested in how much everyone else has. That's especially true when it comes to rock stars and all their cash. As such, Celebrity Net Worth has the goods on both Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson's alleged bank accounts. Gessle is the chief songwriter for Roxette, as well as his first group Gyllene Tider and (obviously) his solo career, so he's the money hog out of the two. In fact, the site's guesstimate for his net worth is a very respectable $150 million. Fredriksson, while mostly focusing on the singing side of things, was no slouch either, as she was estimated to be worth somewhere around $60 million.  

Of course, it's anyone's guess how accurate those figures are, seeing as they only quote the duo's musical careers. In a casual story about the failed online store Boxman, The Daily Roxette casually lets slip that both members of Roxette were active investors with their own holding companies. Fredriksson's was "Amelia Company," while Gessle gave his enterprise the refreshingly honest name "Music for Money." How have their holdings affected their net worth? It's hard to say, but it's probably fair to assume that neither has been short for petty cash since the early '90s.

The private lives of Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle

Every musician has a life outside their bands, and Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson were no exceptions. As RoxetteBlog tells us, Gessle has been married to a woman called Åsa Gessle, who works "in the travel industry," for a quarter of a century. In fact, they were together well before Roxette was even formed. Here's how Gessle describes their relationship: "We've been together since 1984. It's a long time. But Åsa and I have always belonged to each other in a certain way, ever since we first met. I can't see my life without her at all." It's probably helped their relationship in no small part that Åsa held a position in Roxette's organization, which means their relationship was never one of those cases where the musician toured the globe and his wife was left pining at home. Instead, one might say she was very much a part of the "Joyride." 

As for Fredriksson, Metro tells us she was married to Mikael Bolyos, and they have two adult children, Josefin and Oscar. After she passed away after a 17-year struggle with illness, the grieving family could only release the following message: "It is with great sadness that we have to announce that one of our biggest and most beloved artists is gone. Marie Fredriksson passed away in the morning of December 9th due to complications from her illness."

Gessle and Fredriksson (allegedly) used to hate each other

As close-knit as the Roxette tandem of Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson may seem, the book Rock Band Name Origins: The Stories of 240 Groups and Performers alleges that things may not have always been as rosy as that. The reason for this was apparently their different backgrounds. As The New York Times points out, Fredriksson was very much a cool lady, and her pre-Roxette bands included a punk group called Strul and an "eclectic" new wave duo known as MaMas Barn. Meanwhile, Gessle was the head honcho of Gyllene Tider, which AllMusic reminds us was a mainstream group that was among the most successful bands in Sweden. 

The disparity of their career trajectories may have had something to do with their conflicting personalities as well, since the book states that the two straight-up disliked each other when they first met. Gessle supposedly considered Fredriksson too much of a "wild hippie" type, while Fredriksson had Gessle pegged as a "yuppie mama's boy." Still, regardless of their possible initial distaste for each other, they certainly got over the first impressions.

Roxette's wedding shock

Since Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle were a duo that has been through thick and thin for decades, you'd think they'd be best friends, or at least on good enough terms to exchange basic courtesies such as holiday greetings and wedding invitations. Alas, as The Daily Roxette tells us, the year 2015 was not one of courtesy between band members. When Fredriksson got married with Mikael "Micke" Bolyos, she opted not to invite Gessle and his wife, Åsa, to her wedding. Understandably, the move created tension between the two, and since they were the only two members of one of Sweden's most famous bands, the decision created plenty of media attention, with everyone speculating whether or not this was a sign that the band had broken up.

Fortunately, the whole thing turned out to be a bit of a tempest in a teacup. In her autobiography Kärleken till Livet (Love of Life), Fredriksson explained that she and Bolyos merely wanted to keep their wedding ceremony as a small affair. Naturally, this meant a tight guest list, and the reason the Gessles didn't make the cut was apparently the simple fact that Fredriksson was "tired" of Roxette at that point in her life. She said that when she looks back, she can see that "some of their friends felt excluded and disappointed."