New Zealand musician Margaret Urlich dies at 57 after two-year cancer battle

Margaret Urlich died after battling cancer for two and a half years.Photo/Sarah Gurley

One of New Zealand’s most famous and popular musicians, Margaret Urlich, has died after a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer.

Urlich died peacefully at her home in the southern highlands of NSW on Monday, surrounded by family, according to a spokesperson.

Urlich, 57, is an award-winning musician from New Zealand and Australia. She started her career as co-leader of New Zealand new wave band Beijing Ren, whose 1985 song “Echo Room” climbed to number one on the New Zealand charts.

She then joined the all-girl group When The Cat’s Away in 1986, which won best group at the Aotearoa Music Awards, and again in 1988 with “Melting Pot” at number one.

After embarking on a solo career, she was responsible for hits such as “Runaway” and “Boy on the Moon” in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 2021, she was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

A cousin of New Zealand musician Peter Urlich, Margaret Urlich is one of the most successful trans-Tasman musicians of all time, selling over 400,000 albums over the course of her career.

She rose to fame in Australia by singing The Horses with Daryl Braithwaite.

She didn’t appear in The Horses’ music video, and model Gillian Bailey lip-synced her harmonies, and Ulrich later said she regretted not taking part.

“I was nicknamed Gilli Vanilli at one point,” she told News Corp in 2016.

“I was recording an album in London when they made the video. I could have come back to do the video, but at that stage I was doing my own thing. A lot of people knew it was my singing voice, but they didn’t put two With the two, it’s not me in the video.

“It’s probably a little silly in retrospect because the song was so big. But I was young and a little silly at the time, and I did what I thought was right. But it’s definitely not disrespectful to Daryl.”

In 1991, the Colts spent four months at No. 1 in Australia and ended up in the top 10 for 12 weeks.

It has since become an Australian cult classic and has been featured regularly in TV shows and commercials.

After becoming the first female solo artist to top the New Zealand charts, she won the Australian ARIA Music Awards for Best Breakthrough Artist in 1991.

Her song Escaping reached number one in New Zealand and her first two albums Safety in Numbers and Chameleon Dreams reached the top five in Australia.

Ulrich went on to release two other albums, The Deepest Blue (1995) and Second Nature (1999).

She also released a live album in 1994 and was part of the New Zealand cast of Jesus Christ superstars in 1993.

She was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and has been living in NSW with her partner.

“It is with incredible sadness that we inform you that Margaret Urlich passed away peacefully at her home in Southern Highlands, NSW on 22 August 2022, following a battle with cancer. After two and a half years of courageous struggle, her family surrounds her,” a family statement said.

“Margaret is a much-loved, award-winning member of the Australian and New Zealand music scene, a talented singer/songwriter who has captured the hearts of the world with her unique voice and sense of style.

“We thank you for respecting the privacy of her family and loved ones at this sad time.”

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