Love and Breakup Inspiring the Music of ABBA
The iconic 1970s Swedish pop group ABBA was made up of two couples – Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus. The quartet were all involved in their own projects before coming together. Benny was a member of the Hep Stars, a Swedish pop-rock group that performed covers. Bjorn fronted the Hootenanny Singers, a popular Swedish folk-skiffle group. Anni-Frid formed her own band, the Anni-Frid Four. She met Andersson in March 1969 at the Melodifestival. They became a couple a few weeks later when they saw each other again at a concert tour.
Agnetha had her own solo career and she met Bjorn in May 1969 at the filming of a Swedish TV special. The pair married on 6 July 1971 and eventually were involved in each other’s recording sessions. At this time, both Bjorn and Benny had already crossed paths in the mid-1960s and were occasionally playing with each other’s band. They wrote their first real hits together in 1969.
The Group’s Formation
The group came together in the early 1970s with little success. It was in 1974 that they had their first breakout hit “Waterloo”, which won the Eurovision songwriting contest. Their official name ‘ABBA’ had come a year before when their manager started referring to the group using the acronym of the first letters of each of their names. Their second hit ‘Honey Honey’ peaked at number 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top twenty in several countries. The breakthrough in the group’s career came in March 1976, when they released a compilation album titled Greatest Hits. It became their first UK number one album and it took ABBA into the top 50 on the US album charts for the first time. It eventually sold more than a million copies in the US. The new single ‘Fernando’ went to the number-one spot in thirteen countries around the world such as the UK, Australia, France to Germany.
However, the sudden superstardom was not easy for the four of them. It began to strain their relationships. In an interview, Agnetha said fans would become hysterical and they banged on car doors. Agnetha and Bjorn have two children together – Linda in 1973 and Peter in 1978. She said she would focus on the children while Bjorn wrote songs with Benny. Their marriage could not withstand the lifestyle of famous musicians and both Agnetha and Bjorn divorced in 1980. Benny and Anni-Frid, who married in 1978 also divorced a year later in 1981.
Bjorn wrote the song ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ before the divorce. The song ‘The Winner Takes It All’ was about the divorce between him and Agnetha. Agnetha said she did not mind singing the song as it reflected the band’s difficult emotions in their divorces. Beneath the soaring melodies are searing stories of heartbreak. Bjorn admits that even while the band was feeling sad, the ABBA sound remained jubilant and upbeat.
Breakup and Post Breakup
The group broke up in 1982. They formed as couples in love but as individuals, they no longer had the energy to carry on. Despite their breakup, ABBA has sold nearly 400 million albums worldwide. Their songs were fueled by movies such as ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, the smash Broadway musical ‘Mamma Mia’, and its two movie incarnations. The quartet reunited in public in 2008 for the premiere of ‘Mamma Mia!’.
Today, Benny and Bjorn still write songs together. Both are remarried. Agnetha’s second marriage only lasted for two years and she now lives on a farm with her dogs and often sees her grandkids. Anni-Frid on the other hand, married Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen but he died in 1999. She lost her daughter a year before. Anni-Frid inherited von Plauen’s fortune and is now living in Switzerland with her British partner, Henry Smith.
Superstardom can add pressure to any relationship. But if you are keen to learn music and form a band with friends as a hobby, get in touch with Ritmo Music Studio.