Margaret Urlich – who enjoyed a successful career in Australia through the 1990s after breaking through with a standout performance in the Daryl Braithwaite classic The Horses – has died aged 57.
The New Zealand-born singer died at her home in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales after a two-year battle with cancer.
The ARIA-award winner was one of New Zealand’s most successful artists and had hits with Number One and Escaping, as well as a string of platinum-selling albums in the early 90s.
Fans and entertainment industry figures have paid tribute to Urlich overnight, pointing out that, while The Horses may be the biggest hit she was involved with in Australia, there was much more to her career than that song:
Urlich did not appear in the music video for The Horses and model Gillian Bailey lip-synched her backing vocals instead, with Urlich later saying she regretted not taking part.
“I was nicknamed Gilli Vanilli for a while,” Bailey told News Corp in 2016.
“I was recording an album in London when they did the video,” said Urlich.
“I could have come back to do the video but I was doing my own thing by that stage. A lot of people know it’s my singing, but they don’t put two and two together that it’s not me in the video.
“In retrospect it was probably a little bit silly because the song was so huge. But at the time I was young and a bit stupid, I did what I thought was right. But it was absolutely no disrespect to Daryl.”
The Horses took four months to reach No. 1 in 1991, and eventually spent 12 weeks in the Top 10.
Urlich started out her career as a vocalist in the band Peking Man before joining a New Zealand all-girl group called When the Cat’s Way.
She won her ARIA in 1991 for Best Breakthrough Artist after becoming the first female solo artist to top the New Zealand charts.
Her song Escaping was a a number one in New Zealand and her first two albums, Safety in Numbers and Chameleon Dreams, made the top five in Australia, going four times platinum between them.
Her next two albums met more modest success and she largely retreated from the public eye after the release of what was to be her final album, 1999’s Second Nature. In recent years, she had worked as a “passionate” high school music teacher.
She was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and had been living with her partner in New South Wales.