If you grew up in Australia during the 80s and 90s, it was hard to escape rock music. Radio stations and music video shows threw their weight behind the strong local scene with gusto so even if you weren’t a fan of the genre, you came to know all the band names and their signature hits by heart.
I remember The Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself” video in particular. The song came out when I was 11 years old, a smart young girl who kinda had an idea the lyrics were about something sexual. Obviously a stranger to the subject at the time, I would smirk to myself when the video would play on Rage or Video Hits (which was often) feeling like I was in on some big adult secret. What stood out most to me, though, was the raw intensity and natural femininity of the group’s lead singer, Chrissy Amphlett. She had gorgeous auburn hair and effortlessly captured the rock chick vibe of the era, famously decked out in a schoolgirl uniform paired with fishnet stockings. With Amphlett at the mic, The Divinyls produced five studio albums and memorable hits including “Pleasure and Pain,” “Science Fiction,” “Sleeping Beauty” and the aforementioned “I Touch Myself,” which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 10 in the U.K. and No. 1 in Australia and became one of the most controversial songs of the time.
Amphlett passed in her adopted home of New York yesterday after a battle with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. She was 53. In a Facebook post last year, she wrote: “My illnesses have really exhausted this little body of mine that I have thrown from one end of the 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.”
She leaves behind a husband, Charley Drayton, who released a statement today that includes: “Chrissy’s light burns so very brightly. 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.”