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Australian rock singer Chrissy Amphlett dies at 53

Australian actress Chrissy Amphlett performs as Judy Garland during a photo call for the musical "The Boy from Oz" in Sydney August 2, 2006.
Australian actress Chrissy Amphlett performs as Judy Garland during a photo call for the musical "The Boy from Oz" in Sydney August 2, 2006.

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Rock singer Chrissy Amphlett, who fronted the Australian group the Divinyls best known for the worldwide hit "I Touch Myself", has died in New York at the age of 53 after battling breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Her husband and former Divinyls drummer Charley Drayton said Amphlett died in her sleep, surrounded by close friends and family.

"Chrissy's light burns so very brightly," Drayton said in a statement posted on the Australian Recording Industry Association's (ARIA) website.

"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."

Amphlett, who founded the Divinyls in 1980 in Sydney, was best known for her performances as a pouting, brash singer in her signature school uniform with fishnet stockings.

The Divinyls recorded five studio albums between 1982 and 1996 when they split up. The 1991 hit "I Touch Myself" the band's biggest hit, climbing the charts in both Britain and the United States as well as Australia.

Last month Amphlett was named as one of Australia's top 10 singers of all time.

"Chrissy expressed hope that her worldwide hit "I Touch Myself" would be utilized to remind all women to perform annual breast examinations," said Drayton.

Amphlett also acted on stage and in film, and starred alongside Oscar winner Russell Crowe in the Australian production of the musical "Blood Brothers" in 1988, playing the mother of Crowe's character.

In 2007, Amphlett said she had multiple sclerosis (MS) and in 2010 announced she was also fighting breast cancer.

"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 wrote on Facebook in March 2012.

"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."

Crowe led the tributes to Amphlett on Twitter.

"Dear Chrissie, the last time I saw you was in the Botanic Gardens, loving life and reciting verse. That's how I'll remember you, your boy, R," wrote Crowe.

(Reporting by James Grubel, editing by Elaine Lies and Belinda Goldsmith)

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