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Christina "Chrissy" Amphlett--frontwoman for the Australian rock band the Divinyls, whose "I Touch Myself" went to number four on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1991--died Sunday at her home in New York. Amphlett was 53 years old.
Amphlett's husband of 14 years, former Divinyls drummer and multi-instrumentalist/producer Charley Drayton, confirmed in a statement that the charismatic singer died after battling multiple sclerosis since 2007 and breast cancer since 2010. "Chrissy's light burns so very brightly," Drayton stated. "Hers was a life of passion and creativity; she always lived it to the fullest…With her force of character and vocal strength she paved the way for strong, sexy, outspoken women."
Drayton also revealed that Amphlett had "expressed hope that her worldwide hit 'I Touch Myself' would remind women to perform annual breast examinations."
The Divinyls formed in 1980 in Sydney, Australia, and they recorded five albums (with various lineup changes) between 1982 and 1996. While "I Touch Myself" marked their international commercial peak, they became stars of the early-MTV era thanks in no small part to Amphlett's sexy, fearless, tough-girl persona in music videos like "Boys in Town" and "Pleasure and Pain." One of the Divinyls' later songs, 1996's "Human on the Inside," was covered by another feisty rock 'n' roll female, Chrissie Hynde, on the Pretenders' 1999 album Viva el Amor. In 2001, the Divinyls' 1982 single "Science Fiction" was named one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time by the Australasian Performing Right Association, and the band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 2006.
In March 2012, Amphlett took to her Facebook page to share sad news about her ongoing health issues. "Unfortunately the last 18 months have been a real challenge for me having breast cancer and MS and all the new places that will take you," she posted. "You become sadly a patient in a world of waiting rooms, waiting sometimes hours for a result or an appointment. You spend a lot time in cold machines…hospital beds, on your knees praying for miracles, operating rooms, tests after tests, looking at healthy people skip down the street like you once did and you took it all for granted and now wish you could do that. I have not stopped singing throughout all this in my dreams and to be once again performing and doing what I love to do.
"My illnesses have really exhausted this little body of mine that I have thrown from one end of a stage to another and performed thousands of shows that sadly some of you missed. With that said I am getting stronger but there is still some fine tuning and work to be done on myself...I look after myself and my husband has been through this with me every part of the way and I cannot imagine what I would have done without him and his kindness...I will sing again, I will perform again..."
Drayton said Amphlett was "surrounded by close friends and family" at the time of her passing, including her cousin, 1960s Australian pop star Patricia "Little Pattie" Thompson.