Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16: Benny Anderson of ABBA is 67-years-old today.

Born Göran Bror "Benny" Andersson in Stockholm, Sweden, Benny is a composer, a former member of the Swedish musical group ABBA and co-composer of the musicals Chess, Kristina från Duvemåla, and Mamma Mia!

He is currently active with his own band Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO!), and was executive producer for the film version of the musical Mamma Mia!

Andersson's musical background originated with his father Gösta and grandfather Efraim. They both enjoyed playing the accordion, and at six, Benny got his own. Gösta and Efraim taught him Swedish folk music, traditional music, and the odd schlager. Benny recalls the first records he bought were "Du Bist Musik" by Italian schlager singer Caterina Valente and Elvis Presley's rendition of "Jailhouse Rock"; this smörgåsbord of different kinds of music was to influence and follow him through the years.

When Andersson was ten he got his own piano, and taught himself to play. He left school aged 15 and began to perform at youth clubs. This is when he met his first girlfriend Christina Grönvall.

In early 1964, Benny and Christina joined a group with the odd name "Elverkets Spelmanslag" ("The Electricity Board Folk Music Group"), the name was a joking reference to their electric instruments. The repertoire was mainly instrumentals, and Benny recalls one of his standout numbers was "Baby Elephant Walk." He also wrote his first pieces of songwriting around this time for this band.

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In March 1964, "Elverket Spelmanslag" was up against another band in a talent contest, The Hep Stars. When Benny stepped in as the Hep Stars' keyboardist in October of that year, he knew this was what he wanted to do.

The Hep Stars got their breakthrough in March 1965 with their massive hit "Cadillac." As the Hep Stars became the most popular Swedish pop band, Andersson firmed up his place as the band's keyboardist and musical driving force as well as a teen idol. The band performed mostly covers of international hits, but Andersson soon started writing his own material, and gave the band the classic hits "No Response," "Sunny Girl," "Wedding," "Consolation," "It's Nice To Be Back" and "She Will Love You."

Andersson met Björn Ulvaeus in June 1966, and the two started writing songs together, their first being "Isn't It Easy To Say," eventually recorded by The Hep Stars. He also had a fruitful songwriting collaboration with Lasse Berghagen, with whom he wrote several songs and submitted "Hej, Clown" for the 1969 Melodifestivalen - the Swedish Eurovision Song Festival finals. The song finished in second place.

During this contest he met vocalist Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and they soon became a couple. Around the same time his songwriting companion Ulvaeus met vocalist Agnetha Fältskog.

The personal relationships and Andersson and Ulvaeus' songwriting collaboration has led quite naturally to the very close co-operation which the four friends had during the following years. Benny and Björn scored their first hits as songwriters in the spring of 1969: "Ljuva Sextiotal" (a hit with Brita Borg) and "Speleman" (a hit for The Hep Stars).

As the two couples began supporting each other during recording sessions, the sound of the girls' voices convinced the songwriters to model their 'group' on the like of MOR acts Blue Mink, Middle of the Road and The Sweet.

ABBA was born.

The foursome's breakthrough came with winning the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden with "Waterloo" on 6 April 1974. During the next eight years, Andersson (together with Ulvaeus) wrote music to and produced eight studio albums with the ABBA. The group achieved great success globally and scored a chain of #1 hits.

ABBA became one of the most commercially successful acts in the history of popular music, topping the charts worldwide from 1972 to 1982.

ABBA sold over 375 million records worldwide, making them the fourth best-selling popular music artist in the history of recorded music. They still sell two to three million records a year.

ABBA was the first pop group from a non-English-speaking country to enjoy consistent success in the charts of English-speaking countries, including the UK, the US, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, while reaching the top of the charts in different countries like Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru among others. ABBA also released a compilation of their hit songs translated into Spanish.

During the band's existence, Fältskog and Ulvaeus were a married couple, as were Lyngstad and Andersson. At the height of their popularity, both relationships began suffering strain that led ultimately to the collapse of first the Ulvaeus-Fältskog marriage in 1979, then the Andersson-Lyngstad marriage in 1981.

For more, visit the official ABBA Website:


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