New Zealand singer Margaret Urlich has died, aged 57

The singer earned an ARIA Award for debut album 'Safety In Numbers', and provided backing vocals on Daryl Braithwaite hit 'The Horses'

Tributes have poured in for New Zealand-born singer-songwriter Margaret Urlich, who has died at the age of 57.

In a statement from her family, it was confirmed that Urlich passed away yesterday (August 22) at her home in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands, surrounded by loved ones, following “a courageous two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer”.

Born in Auckland in 1965, Urlich began her career in New Zealand new wave group Peking Man, and was a member of all-girl vocal group When the Cat’s Away. She moved to Sydney in 1988 and released her debut solo album, ‘Safety in Numbers’, the following year.

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The album – which contained the hit ‘Escaping’ – reached Number Four and Five on the respective New Zealand and Australian album charts, and went triple Platinum in Australia. It earned Urlich the 1991 ARIA Award for Breakthrough Artist, as well as nominations for Best Female Artist and Album of the Year.

In 1990, Urlich provided backing vocals on Daryl Braithwaite‘s version of Rickie Lee Jones song ‘The Horses’, which was a number one hit for Braithwaite. Urlich declined to appear in the video as she was focusing on her solo career.

Urlich went on to release three more studio albums – 1992’s ‘Chameleon Dreams’, 1995’s ‘The Deepest Blue’ and 1999’s ‘Second Nature’. The latter was produced by Eddie Rayner from Split Enz and featured covers of songs by New Zealand artists, including Tim Finn and Dave Dobbyn.

In her later years, Urlich occasionally toured Australia but largely remained out of the public eye, working as a high school music teacher. Speaking to New Zealand newspaper The Star in 2017, she said: “I quite like being normal. I only ever started singing because I just love it. The whole fame side of it, I didn’t think about it that much and it always felt a little bit uncomfortable to me.”

Among those to pay tribute to Urlich in the wake of her passing are Cold Chisel‘s Jimmy Barnes, and comedian Shaun Micallef, who performed a duet of Carly Simon‘s ‘You’re So Vain’ with Urlich on an episode of The Micallef Program.

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