Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Member of ABBA
Currently Known For:
1967 - 1988, 2004 - Present
April 5, 1950
Member of ABBA
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"I'm not the person who looks back or looks forward. I try to live in what is now."
People will tell you that they hate disco, but turn on some ABBA and they'll be singing a different tune. The Swedish pop and disco group are on a very short list of hitmakers who defined the sound of the 20th Century. If you want to establish that a scene in a movie or TV show is set in the 1950s, you play Elvis. If you want to establish it as being set in the 1970s, there's no substitute for ABBA.
The Dancing Queen
Born in Jönköping, Småland, Sweden on April 5, 1950 to department store manager Knut Ingvar Fältskog and mother Birgit Margareta Johansson, Agnetha started as a songwriter at a young age, composing the song "Two Little Trolls" at just six years old. At eight years old she began to take lessons in piano and sing in the choir at church. By her early teens he had formed a trio with friend Lena Johansson and Elisabeth Strub, The Cambers. The young group een managed to score a few gigs around town before Agnetha left school at fifteen to pursue her musical career.
In the 1960s Agnetha took on a telephonist dayjob for a car firm and joined a dance band. The band turned out to be quite popular, and would launch her into her career as a full-time entertainer. She stayed with the band for two years, writing the song "I Was So In Love." Band leader Bernt Enghardt sent a demo to Karl Gerhard Lundkvist at Capital Records, but Lundkvist wasn't interested in signing the band... except for Agnetha. By this time she was already fielding multiple offers, however, and wound up going instead with Cupol Records.
She recorded "I Was So In Love" in 1967, and a month later she was a superstar. The song topped the Swedish Chart, sold eighty thousand copies, and kicked off a string of successful singles like "Gypsy Friend" (1969). By the early 70s Agnetha even had an acting career, playing Mary Magdalene in a Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar (1972).
Already a major star in Sweden, Agnetha's career was about to reach the stratosphere when she formed a band with friends Björn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson.
ABBA had been around in various configurations and under different names since the late 1960s, most successfully as Bjorn & Benny. Early songs like "Imagine If Earth Was Young" saw modest success, but it wasn't until the band landed on the "double-date" dynamic, with the members being comprised of two photogenic married couples, that it really started to take shape as the supergroup we know it to be today. Agnetha married Bjorn in 1971, and Polar Music owner Stig Anderson knew he had an act that would take the world by storm.
Changing the group's name to ABBA, from the first initials of each member's name, giving them a cool logo, designed by Rune Soderqvist, with the "BA" featuring as a mirror image of the "AB," and fitting the group with flashy disco outfits, they were ready for the mid-1970s.At first, it was slow-going, but with the release of the single "Waterloo" (1974), hitting number six on the Billboard Hot 100, they had a foothold in the international music scene. "Honey, Honey" (1974) only hit number twenty-seven in the US, but went to number two in West Germany, and previous recordings like "Ring Ring" were starting to gain steam in the UK.
In the US, ABBA were a big singles band, but album sales usually proved disappointing. They would produce hit song after hit song, only for an album to peak in the 150-range on release. They would finally get some traction on the US albums chart with Arrival (1976), hitting number one in Europe and Australia, and reaching the top twenty in the United States and earning a gold record from the RIAA.
ABBA was riding high for most of the 1970s, but the seams started to come apart in 1979 when Agnetha and Bjorn filed for divorce. The two continued to maintain a good working relationship and even inspired the song "The Winner Takes It All" (1980), but by the early 1980s the band had essentially come to the end of the line, quietly disbanding in 1982 and dissolving the group entirely in early 1983.
Andersson and Ulvaeus continued to work together on a number of projects, including the musical Chess (1984), which launched the hit single "One Night in Bangkok" (1984) by Murray Head. Meanwhile, Agnetha and Lyngstad were free to pursue their solo careers.
Agnetha's solo album Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1983) was a modest success in the US and in Australia, but huge in Europe, reaching the top spot in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and of course, her native Sweden. Within the first year, the album sold more than one and a half million copies, with the "The Heat Is On" (1983) topping the singles charts throughout Europe. Throughout the 1980s Agnetha developed a voice of her own as a solo artist, recording I Stand Alone (1988) in Malibu. Continuing her long string of hits in Sweden, the album spent eight weeks at the top spot in that country. Following the release of this album, however, Agnetha decided to take a long, long break from the spotlight, spending seventeen years living a quiet, private life.
"I have been described as a very mysterious human being and that hurts a little bit, because it's not like that at all."
Agnetha made her return to music in 2004 with the single "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind" (2004). The single did not disappoint. It instantly became Agnetha's highest charting UK single at number eleven, and reached the number two spot in Sweden. She then released an album of 1960s classic rock covers, My Coloring Book (2004).
For Agnetha's fans around the world it was as if no time had passed at all. She simply picked up right where she'd left off. Her next album was simply titled A (2013), for her contribution to the ABBA moniker. The album was certified gold, hitting the number two spot in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, with the single "I Should've Followed You Home" (2013) peaking at number four in her native country.
It is not every artist who can take nearly two decades off, and still pick up on the momentum created in the first half of their career. But then, Agnetha Faltskog isn't every artist.
"I think to look in the future, to plan another one, it's not realistic right now. But I don't close any doors. I'm very open for what comes up."