Agneta Åse Fältskog (born 5 April 1950) is a Swedish recording artist and entertainer. She became a household name in Sweden after the release of her début album Agnetha Fältskog in 1968, and reached international stardom as a member of pop group ABBA, which sold nearly 370 million records worldwide, making them the second best–selling band in history and the fourth best–selling pop artists in history.
Fältskog was born on 5 April 1950 in Jönköping, Småland, Sweden. She was the first of two daughters of department store manager Knut Ingvar Fältskog (1922—1995) and his wife Birgit Margareta Johansson (1923—1994). Her younger sister, Mona Fältskog Ericsson (1955), works as a nurse in Stockholm. Ingvar Fältskog showed much interest in music and showbusiness, whereas Birgit Fältskog was a very calm and careful woman who devoted herself to her children and household. Fältskog cites Connie Francis, Marianne Faithfull, Aretha Franklin and Lesley Gore as her strongest influences.
Fältskog wrote her first song aged only six, which was named “Två små troll” (Two Little Trolls) In 1958, she started taking piano lessons, and also sang in a local church choir. In early 1960, Fältskog formed a musical trio The Chambers with her friends Lena Johansson and Elisabeth Strub. They performed locally in minor venues and soon dissolved because of a lack of engagements. At age 15, Fältskog decided to leave school and pursue a career.
“Fly Me To The Moon”
Fältskog worked as a telephonist for a car firm while performing with a local dance band, headed by Bernt Enghardt. The band soon became so popular that she had to make a choice between her job and her musical career. She continued singing with the Bernt Enghardt band for two years. During that time, Fältskog broke up with her boyfriend Björn Lilja; this event inspired her to write a song that would soon raise her to media prominence, “Jag var så kär”. At that time, Karl Gerhard Lundkvist, a relative of one of the band’s members, retired from his successful rock and roll career and began working as a music producer at Cupol Records. Enghardt sent him a demo record of the band, but Lundkvist showed interest in Fältskog and her song only. She was worried because he was not interested in the band and they were not to be included on the record. However, she decided to accept the offer, and signed a recording contract with CBS Records.
Her début album Agnetha Fältskog was released by the CBS Records in 1968 (see 1968 in music), and topped the Swedish Albums Chart on 28 January 1968. She also submitted the song “Försonade” to Melodifestivalen, the Swedish heats of the Eurovision Song Contest, but it was not selected for the final. Fältskog developed a career as one of Sweden’s most popular pop music artist, participating in a television special about pilots in 1969. The same year, she released the single “Zigenarvän” about a young girl attending a Gypsy wedding and falling in love with the bride’s brother. Its release coincided with a heated debate about Gypsies in the Swedish media, and Fältskog was accused of deliberately trying to make money out of the situation by writing the song.
“Sealed With A Kiss”
Her success continued throughout the late 1960s. She then met German songwriter and music producer Dieter Zimmerman, to whom she became engaged. Thus Fältskog’s albums were reaching German charts, and Zimmerman promised Fältskog she would achieve great success in Germany. When she went there and met with record producers, she refused to meet their demands, describing their chosen material as “horrible”. Fältskog soon ended her engagement to Zimmerman and returned to Sweden.
In 1970, she released “Om tårar vore guld,” which was perhaps her most successful song in Sweden before the ABBA period. This was in spite of a claim from a Danish composer that she had used 22 bars from his composition “Tema,” even though this had been written in the 1950s and had never been recorded. The case dragged on until 1977, when a settlement was reached and Fältskog paid the Dane SEK5,000. In 1971, Fältskog portrayed Mary Magdalene in the Swedish production of the international musical hit Jesus Christ Superstar.
“Love Me With All Your Heart”
Fältskog met Björn Ulvaeus, a member of the Hootenanny Singers, in 1969. Her relationship with Ulvaeus, as well as her friendship with Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson, with whom Ulvaeus had already written songs, eventually led to the formation of ABBA. Fältskog and Ulvaeus married on 6 July 1971 in the village Verum, with Andersson playing the organ at their wedding. Their first child, Linda Elin Ulvaeus was born on 23 February 1973, and their son Peter Christian Ulvaeus on 4 December 1977. The couple decided to separate in late 1978, and Fältskog moved out of their home on Christmas night, 25 December 1978. In January 1979, the couple filed for divorce, which was finalised in June 1980. Both Fältskog and Ulvaeus agreed not to let their failed marriage interfere with their responsibilities with ABBA. The failure of their marriage inspired Ulvaeus to write “The Winner Takes It All“, one of ABBA’s greatest hits.
In 1975, during the same period as her bandmate Anni-Frid Lyngstad recorded her Swedish number one album Frida ensam, Fältskog recorded and produced her solo album Elva kvinnor i ett hus. These albums were both recorded between sessions and promotion for the ABBA albums Waterloo and ABBA. Even though ABBA was already a number one act in Sweden by 1975, Fältskog’s album failed to reach the Top 10 on the Swedish album charts, peaking at #11. However, Elva Kvinnor I Ett Hus did spend a staggering 53 weeks on the chart, even longer than any of the ABBA albums, and it also contained three further Svensktoppen entries for Fältskog: her Swedish language version of ABBA’s “SOS” (also #4 on the single sales chart); “Tack För En Underbar Vanlig Dag”; and “Doktorn!”. Except for the version of “SOS”, all the songs had lyrics by Bosse Carlgren and music by Fältskog herself. The album had been underway since 1972, when Agnetha started writing the songs, but it was delayed because of the work with ABBA and her pregnancy. In 1974, she and Carlgren agreed on a concept for the album; it should consist of 12 songs, sung by 12 different women living in the same apartment building, each having a distinct name, identity, etc. In the end, only 11 songs were put onto the album, and the concept was never fully developed.
“What Now My Love?”
Between the years 1968 and 1980, Fältskog had a total of 18 entries on the important Svensktoppen radio chart, starting with debut single “Jag Var Så Kär” in January 1968 (peak position #1) and ending with “När Du Tar Mig I Din Famn” from the compilation Tio år med Agnetha twelve years later, in January 1980 (peak position #1). The 18 entries, most of which were composed or co-written by Fältskog herself, spent a total of 139 weeks on the chart during this time, with the biggest hit being 1970’s “Om Tårar Vore Guld” (#1, 15 weeks). Fältskog also recorded the Swedish Christmas album Nu tändas tusen juleljus with daughter Linda Ulvaeus which reached #6 on the Swedish album sales chart in December 1981. Chartwise Fältskog was, therefore, by far the most successful solo artist of the four ABBA members, both before and during the band’s international career.
Fältskog is also the only member of ABBA to have participated in Melodifestivalen again after having won Eurovision with “Waterloo” in 1974 – albeit only as a composer. In 1981 she wrote the ballad “Men Natten Är Vår” (“But The Night is Ours”) with lyrics by Ingela Forsman, but instead of performing the song in the contest herself she chose new talent Kicki Moberg. The single, which Fältskog produced in the Polar Studios with the same musicians as on contemporary ABBA recordings, was backed with the Swedish version of “I’m Still Alive”, entitled “Här Är Mitt Liv” (“Here is My Life”), a song which she herself had sung on ABBA’s 1979 world tour. Moberg’s recording of the song remains the only version to have been officially released to date.
In the 1980s, Fältskog released three English-language solo albums. The records did well in Europe and Scandinavia.
At the end of 1982, she duetted with Swedish singer (and former ABBA backing vocalist) Tomas Ledin on a song called “Never Again“, which became a Top Five hit in Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and South America. The song was also released in a Spanish language version, entitled “Ya Nunca Más”. In the summer of the same year, Fältskog starred in the hit Swedish movie Raskenstam, and received positive reviews for her film début. The film was also a blockbuster hit in Sweden.
“Dancing Queen” Abba
In May 1983, Fältskog released her first post-ABBA solo album, Wrap Your Arms Around Me. The album became a moderate hit in North America and Australia, and reached the higher regions of the charts across Europe, including No. 1 in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium and Denmark (where it became the biggest-selling album of the year), and No.18 in the UK. All in all Agnetha sold 1.2 million records of her first solo album after ABBA. Two singles from the album became big hits in continental Europe. “The Heat Is On” became a No. 1 hit in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, but only just scraped into the UK Top 40. The title track also reached No.1 in Belgium as well as the Top Five in the Netherlands, Germany and South Africa. In North America, the album track “Can’t Shake Loose” was released as the lead-off single, reaching No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and No. 23 on the RPM Top 50 singles chart in Canada.
Her next album, Eyes Of A Woman, produced by Eric Stewart of 10cc fame, was released in March 1985. “She is quite content to grace the works of various other lesser mortals with her immaculate, sugar-sweet voice,” wrote Barry McIlheney in Melody Maker. The album sold well in parts of Europe, reaching No. 2 in Sweden and the Top 20 in Norway and Belgium, but failed to match the success of Wrap Your Arms Around Me. Lead single “I Won’t Let You Go”, composed by Fältskog herself, however enjoyed considerable chart success in both Continental Europe and Scandinavia.
“Take A Chance On Me”
In 1986, Fältskog recorded another duet, “The Way You Are,” with Swedish singer Ola Håkansson, which became another No. 1 hit in Sweden. In mid-1987, Fältskog travelled to Malibu, California, to record the album I Stand Alone, produced by Peter Cetera and Bruce Gaitsch (fresh off Madonna‘s La Isla Bonita collaboration). Released in November of that year, it was a minor hit in Europe, except for Sweden where it spent eight weeks at No. 1 and became the biggest selling album of 1988 and entering the Top 15 in Norway. The single from the album, “I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Good-Bye)“, on which Fältskog duetted with Peter Cetera, was released primarily in North America, and became her second solo single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 93). It was also a Top 20 Billboard Adult Contemporary hit. Two tracks were also recorded in Spanish for the Latin American market; “La Ultima Véz” (“The Last Time”) and “Yo No Fui Quién Dijo Adiós” (“I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye)”).
After the release of I Stand Alone in mid-1988 Fältskog took a break from her musical career and completely withdrew from public life.
In December 1990, Fältskog married for a second time, albeit briefly, a surgeon named Tomas Sonnenfeld. They were divorced in 1993.
Former Dutch citizen Gert van der Graaf claims he had fallen in love with Fältskog at the age of 6, in 1974, when he saw ABBA performing “Waterloo” on Dutch TV. Since that day, Van der Graaf was obsessed with Fältskog. As an adult, he started to make trips to Sweden and found the area where Fältskog lived. In 1997, he moved from Holland to Sweden, determined to get in contact with Fältskog. He managed to buy a small house near Fältskog’s estate and also found a job in the area. Soon, he began to approach Fältskog during her walks in her neighborhood. Fältskog began a sexual relationship with him and finally invited him to visit her home – and co-habit with her.
“Fool Am I”
After about two years, Fältskog wanted to end the relationship and told Van der Graaf. After the relationship terminated, he began to send Fältskog many letters, called her relentlessly, and visited her estate frequently without invitation. Eventually, Fältskog obtained a restraining order against Van der Graaf. He broke the order several times and was eventually deported back to Holland. In 2005, the deportation order from Sweden ran out, and within months Van der Graaf was again sighted near Fältskog’s estate in Ekerö.
In court, Fältskog was forced to admit that she had seduced him and Van der Graaf said that he “did not mean to stalk her” but claimed he was still in love with her and “couldn’t let go.” Since the deportation, Fältskog has not reported any further contact from Van der Graaf. However, as recently as 2007, Van der Graaf was spotted at a play at which Fältskog was in attendance. When asked, Fältskog stated that she did not know Van der Graaf had been there and that he did not approach her.
In 1996, her autobiography Som jag är was published in Swedish (in English the following year as As I Am), followed by several compilation CDs of her Swedish and English recordings. Hardcore fans welcomed the autobiography, but critics panned it.
In April 2004, Fältskog released a new single, “If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind” (a cover of the song originally recorded by Cilla Black). It reached No. 2 in Sweden, No. 11 in the UK, and became a sizeable hit throughout Europe. “It is exciting to hear her voice, utterly undimmed, delivering a tellingly-titled song,” commented London’s Music Week. A few weeks later, the album My Colouring Book, a collection of Fältskog’s covers of 1960s classic oldies, was released, topping the charts in Sweden, hitting the Top Five in Finland and Denmark, No. 6 in Germany and peaking at No. 12 in the UK. The title song “My Colouring Book” is a cover of the song originally recorded by Dusty Springfield. “I love this record,” enthused Pete Clark in London’s Evening Standard, while Daily Mail pointed out that “it reveals a genuine affection for the era’s forgotten pop tunes.” The Times reviewer noted that “her voice is still an impressive pop instrument,” and The Observer shared the same sentiment suggesting that “time hasn’t diminished her perfect voice.” Reviewing the release in The Guardian, Caroline Sullivan wrote: “Agnetha Fältskog has a vulnerability that gets under the skin of a song. She may be cheating a trifle by including no original material on this collection of 1960s covers, but if anyone can do justice to the likes of “Sealed with a Kiss“, it’s her. The soaring sentimentality evokes Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw in their mini-skirted pomp, and I don’t say that lightly.” The release attracted major media attention across Europe, but Fältskog staunchly refused to be involved in any extensive promotion of the album (including personal appearances), and thus limited her public exposure to several short newspaper interviews, a few videos and a Swedish-language low-key TV special. Yet, the album managed to sell more than 500,000 copies worldwide, 50,000 of those in the UK alone. A second single release from the album, “When you walk in the room” peaked at No.11 in Sweden and also reached the UK Top 40.
“The Winner Takes It All”
Shortly after this release, for the 2004 semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Istanbul thirty years after ABBA had won the contest in Brighton, Fältskog appeared briefly in a special comedy video made for the interval act, entitled “Our Last Video.” Each of the four members of the group appeared briefly in cameo roles, as did others such as Cher and Rik Mayall. The video was not included in the official DVD release of the Eurovision Contest, but was issued as a separate DVD release. It was billed as the first time the four had worked together since the group split. In fact, they each filmed their appearances separately.
In 2004, Fältskog was nominated for Best Nordic Artist at the Nordic Music Awards, and at Christmas of that year (for the first time in almost 20 years), she gave an extensive interview which was filmed by Swedish TV. Around the same time, Sony Music released a lavishly produced 6 CD boxed set comprising Fältskog’s Swedish solo career before ABBA (five original solo albums – 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1975 – and an additional compilation disc with bonus tracks).
In January 2007, Fältskog appeared at the final performance of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm (as she had at its opening in 2005). Together with ex-husband and former colleague Björn, she appeared on stage at the after show party held at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel. She also sang a duet, “True Love,” with Tommy Körberg of Chess fame.
In October 2008 a new compilation album, “My Very Best”, was released in Sweden. The double CD contains both Swedish (CD 1) and English language hits (CD 2) from her whole solo career, from 1967 to 2004. It successfully entered as #4 on the Swedish albums chart and was certified Gold within the first week of its release.
On 4 July 2008 Fältskog joined former colleagues Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson at the Swedish premiere of the film version of Mamma Mia!, held at the Rival Theatre (owned by Andersson) in Mariatorget, Stockholm. Fältskog arrived with Lyngstad and movie star Meryl Streep, the three dancing in front of thousands of fans before joining the film’s other stars and Andersson and Ulvaeus on the hotel balcony for the first photograph of all four ABBA members together in 22 years. The event made the front pages of newspapers around the world as well as being shown live on news channels.
In February 2010 ABBA World, an extensive multi-million pound exhibition, debuted at London’s Earls Court and included an extensive interview with Agnetha filmed in Sweden the previous summer. For the exhibition’s Melbourne launch, she recorded a light-hearted opening film together with former ABBA colleague Benny Andersson, shot in Stockholm in June 2010.
Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, nndb.com
Quick Bio Facts:
Agnetha Fältskog AKA Agnetha Åse Fältskog
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: ABBA
Husband: Björn Ulvaeus (fellow bandmember, m. 6-Jul-1971, div. 1979, two children)
Husband: Tomas Sonnenfeld (m. 15-Dec-1990, div. 1993)
Daughter: Linda Ulvaeus
Son: Christian Ulvaeus
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
ABBA: The Movie (23-Dec-1977)
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