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Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson dies, aged 61

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Roxette sold more than 80 million records worldwide

Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson has died aged 61, her manager has confirmed.

The Swedish star achieved global success in the 1990s with hits like Joyride, The Look and It Must Have Been Love, from the film Pretty Woman.

A statement said the singer had died on Monday, 9 December “following a 17-year long battle with cancer”.

“You were the most wonderful friend for over 40 years,” her bandmate Per Gessle said. “Things will never be the same.”

Fredriksson was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002, after collapsing in her kitchen following a workout.

The tumour cost her the vision in her right eye – but after three years of treatment, she returned to public life and toured successfully again with Roxette from 2008 to 2016.

However, the cancer eventually returned: Fredriksson’s family said she had died following a recurrence of “her previous illness” earlier this week.

‘Magical live performances’

“Thank you, Marie, thanks for everything,” said Gessle in a heartfelt statement.

“You were an outstanding musician, a master of the voice, an amazing performer. Thanks for painting my black and white songs in the most beautiful colours. You were the most wonderful friend for over 40 years.

“I’m proud, honoured and happy to have been able to share so much of your time, talent, warmth, generosity and sense of humour. All my love goes out to you and your family.”

“Marie leaves us a grand musical legacy,” added her manager Marie Dimberg.

“Her amazing voice – both strong and sensitive – and her magical live performances will be remembered by all of us who were lucky enough to witness them. But we also remember a wonderful person with a huge appetite for life, and woman with a very big heart who cared for everybody she met.”

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Hailing from Halmstad, Sweden, Roxette first met in the late 1970s, when Fredriksson was a member of the pop outfit Strul & Ma Mas Barn and Gessle was playing with Gyllene Tider, one of Sweden’s biggest groups.

They teamed up in 1986, becoming huge stars in their homeland with the single Neverending Love, followed by a hit album, Pearls of Passion.

Despite their popularity in Scandinavia, Capitol Records declined to release their records in the US.

It wasn’t until an American student studying in Sweden brought a copy of their second album home to Minneapolis, and persuaded a local radio DJ to play The Look, that they achieved international fame.

That song became the first of four US number ones for the band, while its parent album, Look Sharp!, went platinum.

They achieved their biggest success when their 1987 Christmas single, It Must Have Been Love, was re-written for inclusion on the Pretty Woman soundtrack in 1990. It topped the charts in more than 10 countries, and gave the band their biggest UK hit, reaching number three.

‘Full of fear’

Roxette continued to tour and release albums throughout the 1990s – eventually selling more than 80m records worldwide.

Known for breezy pop hits like Dressed For Success and power ballads such as Listen To Your Heart, they cheekily summarised their songwriting philosophy in the title to their 1995 greatest hits album, Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus.

After a brief hiatus, during which Gessle reunited with Gyllene Tider, the duo scored further hit albums with 1999’s Have a Nice Day, and 2001’s Room Service.

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The singer retired from touring in 2015

Fredriksson’s devastating cancer diagnosis came the following year. She spent three years receiving treatment, and later wrote about the “fear” she’d experienced in a solo record, called The Change.

Suddenly the change was here,” she sang, “Cold as ice and full of fear / There was nothing I could do / I saw slow motion pictures / Of me and you.”

In 2005, Fredriksson told Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper her treatment had been successful, saying: “It’s been three really hard years [but] I’m healthy.”

The singer took up painting during her treatment, but surprised Roxette fans by making a return to the stage with Gessle in Amsterdam in 2008.

The band later mounted a comeback tour that sold out venues across Europe, and released several new albums but, by 2016, Fredriksson’s health was failing and doctors advised her to stop touring.

‘Beautiful colours’

In her autobiography, the singer wrote about the impact cancer had on her life.

“At last, it feels like I have reconciled myself to having a radiation injury to live with. That this is how it turned out,” she said in The Love Of Life.

“I have lost many years through the disease. And it is also a sadness to age. But every day I think I’m grateful to be sitting here. And that I can still sing.”

In her final single, 2018’s Sing Me A Song, the star appeared to address her mortality, singing: “The love I had and gave / Makes it hard to say goodbye” over an elegant, mournful jazz backing.

Fredriksson is survived by her husband Mikael Bolyos and their two children.

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Frank Skinner: ‘I’m all for a bit of moral menace’

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Frank Skinner played ukulele at the Queen’s 92nd birthday celebrations in 2018

“The edge of inappropriate is the spiritual home of the best stand-up comedy,” proclaims Frank Skinner in the programme notes for his new West End show, Showbiz.

It’s also, he jokes, “the name of my country house in Gloucestershire”.

The 62-year-old, who has made a pretty good living walking the tightrope of comedic taste, is about to ride the bus (using his over 60s travel card) to London’s Garrick Theatre, as he speaks to the BBC, for the first night of a five-week residency, having road-tested it around the UK last year.

Loosely-based around celebrity anecdotes he’s acquired over the past 25 years working as one of the country’s most cherished comedians, Skinner’s show is littered with poetic and funny filth about his decaying body, lessening libido and late arrival to fatherhood in his mid-50s.

In an era when critics have called “wokeness” – the modern day political correctness – the death knell for comedy, the veteran stand-up still trusts his instincts.

“Sometimes when you start improvising on stage, which I do a fair bit of, obviously you haven’t planned it. But to be honest, it’s not like I’m one of these blokes who is sitting at home pouring it all out and then does a different thing on stage.

“I think the line between me on and off is fairly blurred”.

In other words, if a joke is good enough to tell down the pub, then it’s fit for the stage too.

‘Lightness of touch’

The Royal family, Bruce Forsyth and the ahem, “cursed” Strictly dancers all find themselves on the receiving end of Skinner’s dry wit in the show, which The Guardian said finds the “statesman of stand-up shows” showing “no sign of stiffening”.

“It’s rare to see such fast-thinking wit deployed with such a sense of joy,” added The Times’ Dominic Maxwell.

Skinner declared on-stage during Wednesday’s press night that “a lightness of touch” is required when tackling certain topics (mostly genitalia). He allayed the fears of an apparently worried-looking audience member named Linda that she needn’t worry about an accent he was about to attempt.

“When I started doing comedy,” he adds, “We were very much what was then called ‘alternative comedy’ and the two great centrepieces of that was non-sexist, non-racist.

“That was that was the big thing, which now seems absolutely basic, page one, but then was revolutionary.

“I did mainstream working men’s clubs in Birmingham, and you would not believe the racism, for example, was absolutely the norm [for] friendly middle-aged entertainers.

“We were at the beginning of that and I think we started to expand it. So then you think, ‘Well what about homophobia?'”

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David Baddiel and Skinner presented TV shows Fantasy Football League

While he jokes woke culture means he’ll no longer help attractive young women with their heavy suitcases, Skinner believes the new normal parameters are “a sort of a militaristic approach to kindness”.

“Unless you force people to do stuff, most people won’t do it. So I think you can make a few interesting dramas about sexual predators, but the best way to stop it is to say to people, they’ll lose their job.

“So I’m all for a bit of moral menace, as it were”.

US President Barack Obama recently spoke of his distrust of righteous online trolls, while US comedian Dave Chappelle made a whole stand-up special about cancel culture. Satirist Armando Iannucci said last week he thinks people are “losing the appetite to engage in argument” for fear of causing offence.

“I think it can be annoying at times,” Skinner goes on, “It can empower idiots on occasion, and when it becomes like a parlour game where people sit around saying, ‘Oh, you said that, and you shouldn’t have said that…

“I grew up going to football matches where people threw bananas at black players and we didn’t have to sit around and debate whether it was racist or not. But I think it’s one of the major social advances of the last 60 years.”

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Frank Skinner

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He anchored the TV show Room 101 from 2012-2018, before the BBC bosses put the show in there itself, but still hosts a weekly show on Absolute Radio

He believes that in the age of Twitter, it would be hard for any comedian harbouring suspect personal views to fake it for long anyway.

“I got in one night and my partner said to me, ‘What were you doing in Superdrug?’ And I thought, ‘This is it now, this is East Germany!’

“All my philandering in the past would be impossible in the modern generation”.

Fellow British comedian Ricky Gervais criticised celebrities at the Golden Globe Awards for mere virtue signalling and Skinner would tend to agree, noting “there’s only one thing more embarrassing than the celebrities talking about politics; and that’s politicians talking about anything other than politics”.

‘Best shot’

The working class millionaire confesses to have started preaching from the pulpit himself lately, to an audience of one: Seven-year-old son Buzz.

“The other day I gave a little speech at home about the fact that we shouldn’t see Frozen 2 as girl film, that there’s no such thing as a girl film.

“I don’t know whether I really believe that or not, but I felt it was important to say so!”

Dad and lad recently went on a history-themed trip to Rome, where the Catholic comedian managed to wangle front row tickets for an audience with the Pope at The Vatican. This time through his church connections, not his showbiz ones.

Another family trip saw Skinner make a deal with his partner of 19 years, Cath Mason, not to swear for the first five minutes of his set at Latitude Festival so the youngster could see his old man at work.

The star, who suffered a bad bout of pneumonia in late 2018 (“it’s great for the cheekbones!”), says he’s giving the late dad thing his “best shot”, mindful of how many younger men have made mess of it.

“If I’d have had kids in my 20s it would have been nightmarish”.

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Frank – whose real name is Christopher Collins – alongside long-term girlfriend Cath Mason

Skinner was in his 30s when he decided to give stand-up a shot, while working as an English lecturer, and he soon found himself winning the coveted Perrier Award at Edinburg Fringe Festival in 1991.

In the 1990s he became a household name, flying the flag for the (slightly) more intellectual end of lad culture alongside David Baddiel on the cult TV show Fantasy Football League, en route to getting his own chat show.

The teetotaller admits he used to live it up when he first got famous but says the effects soon wore off, and as a result he now has few actual showbiz friends as a result.

For this he blames his “lack of Class A drugs credentials” during an era of mass hedonism in British pop culture.

Although he didn’t fully large it up like the Gallagher brothers he did have similar chart success thanks to the England Euro 96 football anthem Three Lions, which he wrote with Baddiel and Lightning seed Ian Broudie (both of whom stepped out to see their old pal perform this week).

As his beloved England made it to the 2018 World Cup Semi-Finals, the song broke a chart record by returning to the top for a fourth time. Sadly though it broke another one soon after, by becoming fastest-falling number one of all-time, dropping to number 97 after Gareth Southgate’s men were knocked-out by Croatia.

Through bleary eyes, Skinner – who thinks England’s Euro 2020 forwards look “deadly” – was at least equipped to see the funny side.

“It’s beautiful that it was by 96 places. Couldn’t be better.”

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Three Lions was written by Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds, Frank Skinner and David Baddiel

Frank Skinner’s stand-up show Showbiz runs at London’s Garrick Theatre until 15 February

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Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand

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The 20th Century Fox logo will lose a word but retain the same look, according to reports

Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.

US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.

20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.

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Variety magazine, which broke the news about the name change, said it had spoken to an unnamed Disney source, who said: “I think the Fox name means Murdoch, and that is toxic.”

Hollywood is known for being liberal, unlike the Australian tycoon.

Disney has also renamed Fox Searchlight Pictures, the arthouse arm, as simply Searchlight Pictures.

Staff emails were changed on Friday, from @fox.com to @20thcenturystudios.com or @searchlight.com.

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Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has been a cheerleader for Donald Trump

The original 20th Century Fox company was formed in 1935 following a merger.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation bought it in the mid-1980s, and the Fox News channel was created in 1996, growing to become most-watched in the US.

News Corporation was later split into News Corp and 21st Century Fox – which Disney acquired as the parent company of various film and television studios, including the renowned 20th Century Fox.

The Murdoch family retained the news outlets in a spin-off company, Fox Corporation, which is run by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachland.

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Variety says the 20th Century Fox studio’s well-known fanfare theme and searchlight logo will be retained.

Disney also runs 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios. Any changes to their names have not been announced.

Disney is already a dominant force in US news, as the owner of the ABC network. It is also hoping to challenge Netflix with its own streaming service Disney+, which launched in the US last year.



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Jack Reacher author Lee Child passes writing baton to brother

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Lee Child has written 24 Jack Reacher novels

The author of the best-selling Jack Reacher novels is handing over the writing duties to his younger brother.

Lee Child, 65, reportedly considered killing off the 6ft 5ins vigilante hero, who is played by actor Tom Cruise in film adaptations.

But the writer said: “I love my readers and know they want many, many more Reacher stories in the future.”

His brother Andrew Grant, 51, who will write under the pen name Andrew Child, is already an established author.

Child, whose real name is James Grant, said he felt he was “ageing out” of being able to produce more of the books.

He said: “So I have decided to pass the baton to someone who can.”

He described his younger sibling as the “best tough-guy writer I have read in years.”

“We share the same DNA, the same background, the same upbringing,” he said, adding: “He’s me, fifteen years ago, full of energy and ideas.”

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There have been two Jack Reacher films starring Tom Cruise

The Coventry-born author said they would work on the next few novels together “and then he’ll strike out on his own”.

Child started writing after being fired from his job as a presentation director at Granada Television in 1995.

His first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, was published in 1997.

He has since sold more than 100 million books and Amazon has announced it is adapting the series for TV.

The novels, which are set in the United States, have been translated into 40 languages and adapted into two movies starring Cruise.

The protagonist of the book series is a former major in the US Army military police who roams the US investigating suspicious and dangerous situations.

Grant said he had been “blown away” by his elder brother’s first Reacher novel.

He said: “The more time I spent with him in each new adventure, the more I craved the next. So I know what it’s like to wait for the new Reacher novel.”

He added: “I understand what Reacher fans want – because I am one. And I’ll do my best to deliver for them.

“I’ll have to. Because my big brother will be watching.”

The Sentinel, the 25th Jack Reacher novel, is due to be published on 29 October 2020.



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