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Profile: ABBA

By

Abba perform at Unicef Gala in New York, 8th January 1979
Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Formed:

1971 (Stockholm, Sweden)

Genres:

Pop, Europop, Disco

Members:

Anni-Frid Synni "Frida" Lyngstad (b. November 15, 1945, Narvik, Norway): vocals
Benny Andersson (b. Göran Bror Benny Andersson, December 16, 1946, Stockholm, Sweden): piano, keyboards, vocals
Björn Kristian Ulvaeus (b. April 25, 1945, Gothenburg, Sweden): guitar, vocals
Agnetha Faltskog (b. Agneta Åse Fältskog, April 5, 1950, Jonkoping, Sweden): vocals

Contributions to music:

  • The first group to bring Europop into the world rock mainstream
  • Brought Sweden to the forefront of the international pop scene
  • Brought a Phil Spector "Wall Of Sound" approach to Europop
  • Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are considered two of the Seventies' finest pop songwriters
  • Frida and especially Agnetha are routinely hailed as strong interpretive vocalists

Early years:

The reason behind ABBA's phenomenal popularity lay in their roots as a Swedish supergroup of sorts. In the late Sixties, Bjorn Ulvaeus was a member of the popular folk act The Hootenanny Singers, while Benny Andersson was already well-known as part of the Hep Stars, the country's biggest pop covers act. The pair met in 1966 at a party and collaborated on and off for five years, but it was during the late Sixties that they met their respective spouses: Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, both already established solo artists, fell in love with Bjorn and Benny (respectively) within months of each other.

Success:

Oddly enough, the four didn't work together as a full-time unit until 1972, when "People Need Love," clumsily credited to "Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid," became a hit in their native country, signaling they should combine their talents permanently. Manager Stig Anderson had referred to them as "ABBA" in business dealings, and a nationwide poll also indicated fan preference for the acronym, so it stuck. The group finally achieved fame across Europe with two appearances at the Eurovision Song Contest -- "Ring Ring," which placed third in 1973, and "Waterloo," which won the grand prize the following year.

Later years:

"Waterloo" also introduced them to the US, and although they remained much more popular in Europe, the group achieved monumental worldwide success throughout the decade. As might be expcted, however, the success took a toll on the group's two marriages, and by 1982, they decided to go their separate ways as performers. The two female leads went on to some solo success, while Bjorn and Benny created a popular musical (1984's "Chess") and continued to write and produce for other acts. Although they remain cordial, the four have declined any offers of a reunion, despite resurging popularity in the last ten years.

Other facts:

  • Shared their name with a national fish-canning company, who graciously allowed them to use it
  • Only the Volvo car company made more money for Sweden during the group's existence
  • The group's 1981 hit "The Visitors" was later revealed to be written in response to grassroots movements to overthrow Soviet domination in European countries
  • The hugely popular Broadway musical Mamma Mia! is based around their songs
  • A boy/girl group called A*Teens enjoyed sustained popularity in the late Nineties by covering only Abba songs
  • In 2000, business interests offered the group one billion dollars for one hundred reunion shows

Awards/Honors:

  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2002)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Dancing Queen" (1977)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Waterloo" (1974)
  • "Take A Chance On Me" (1978)
  • "The Winner Takes It All" (1981)
Other important recordings: "Ring Ring," "He Is Your Brother," "Honey, Honey," "SOS," "Fernando," "So Long," "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," "Mamma Mia," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "Thank You For The Music," "Money, Money, Money," "The Name Of The Game," "Angeleyes," "Does Your Mother Know," "Voulez-Vous," "Eagle," "Summer Night City," "Chiquitita," "Lay All Your Love On Me," "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)," "I Have A Dream," "Super Trouper," "On And On And On," "One Of Us," "The Visitors (Crackin' Up)," "When All Is Said And Done," "The Day Before You Came," "Under Attack"
Covered by: Erasure, Lush, U2, Westlife, Ash, Information Society, Any Trouble, Mike Oldfield, Madness, Luka Bloom, Sixpence None the Richer, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kylie Minogue, The Corrs, S Club 7, Evan Dando, Men Without Hats, Bananarama, Helloween, Danny Wilson, Elvis Costello, Blancmange, Sinead O'Connor, Peter Cetera, Tonic, Army of Lovers, Sid Vicious, Tanita Tikaram, Culture Club
Appears in the movies: "ABBA: The Movie" (1977)
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