ABBA

  • Swedish pop rock group formed in 1972 from Stockholm Sweden. Members of the group were Agnetha Fältskog (vocals, keyboards), Björn Ulvaeus (vocals, guitars, songwriting), Benny Andersson (vocals, keyboards, guitar, songwriting) and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (vocals, piano).
  • Andersson and Ulvaeus were members of popular bands before forming ABBA. Andersson was a member of the Hep Stars in the mid-60s, which had several Swedish #1 singles. At the same time, Ulvaeus was a member of a folk group named The Hootenanny Singers, which released over ten albums between 1964 and 1970. Meanwhile, Fältskog was a solo artist at 18 years old, often writing her own songs, and by 1971 she had released four albums and had several hits. Lyngstad was singing in bands at 13 years old, and she won a talent contest in 1967, winning a recording contract as her prize.
  • In 1966, Andersson and Ulvaeus began to collaborate on songwriting, and by 1969 they were writing songs that became hits in Sweden. That year, Andersson met Lyngstad at the Eurovision Song Contest, and soon they became a couple. Also that year, Ulvaeus and Fältskog met during the filming of a TV special, and they became a couple. Over the following years, all four collaborated with one another on various musical projects. In 1971, Ulvaeus and Fältskog married, and Andersson and Lyngstad married in 1978.
  • In June 1972, a single named People Need Love was released in Sweden, credited to “Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid.” It was successful enough to encourage them to continue to record together. In 1973, they released their debut album, Ring Ring. It was popular in parts of Europe and South Africa, but they felt that they needed to breakthrough in the UK and U.S. to be successful.
  • In 1973, their manager started to refer to them as ABBA – the first letter of each of their first names. It stuck, and by that summer, they announced that they would now be known as ABBA. In 1976, the first B in their logo was mirror-image reversed, after the group posed for photos, each holding their respective letter, and Benny Andersson held his backwards.
  • For several years, the group submitted entries to the Eurovision Song Contest, hoping that a win would increase their international exposure. In 1974, they submitted Waterloo to win the right to represent Sweden in the contest, and in April 1974 they won the European contest, singing the song in English. The song became a #1 hit many countries, including the UK, and it peaked at #6 in the U.S. An album of the same name soon followed, with the single Honey Honey reaching #27 in the U.S. 1975’s self-titled ABBA album solidified their popularity in Europe and Australia, but it did not sell well in the U.S. Three singles were hits – I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do reached #15, as did SOS, and Mamma Mia peaked at #32 on the Hot 100, #12 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and #1 in the UK.
  • Their first Greatest Hits compilation album was released in 1975 – it contained a new single, Fernando, that reached #1 in many countries, #13 on the Hot 100 chart, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The following year, they released the album Arrival. It included their only Hot 100 #1 song – Dancing Queen. In 2015, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The album also included Knowing Me, Knowing You, which reached #14 on the Hot 100.
  • By 1977, ABBA were global superstars. That year, they released ABBA: The Album. It included Take A Chance On Me, which peaked at #3, and The Name of the Game, which reached #12. Three more albums released between 1979 and 1981 were successful, particularly internationally – hit singles included Super Trouper, The Winner Takes It All (#1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart), Chiquitita and Does Your Mother Know.
  • Their run of success was a strain on their personal lives, and both marriages ended in divorce in the early 80s. They managed to continue to work together. After an attempt to record a new album in 1982 and a final public performance in December that year, they went on an indefinite break. Andersson and Ulvaeus continued to collaborate with musical theater work as well as songwriting for other artists. Fältskog and Lyngstad continued their solo careers.
  • In the 90s, their was a resurgence of interest in the group. Tribute groups began to form, and their songs were covered by other artists. In 1999, a musical theater production called Mamma Mia! was staged – it featured many of their famous songs and it was a huge success on Broadway and on London’s West End. A film version was released in 2008, and it was the fifth-highest grossing film of the year. A sequel was released in 2018.
  • All of this new success led to a reunion of the group. After insisting that they would never get together again, they made a public appearance together at an ABBA-themed restaurant in 2016, and later that year they sang together for the first time in over 30 years at a private party. They announced in October 2016 that they were working on a “digital entertainment experience” with new music, with the members performing as avatars. There were numerous delays, and the pandemic has pushed back any avatar tour to 2022 at the earliest.
  • ABBA is one of the biggest selling artists of all time, and they are the first group from a non-English speaking country to achieve consistent success internationally. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. You always felt good hearing an ABBA song – simple, happy, catchy songs that feature their distinctive vocals. They were notorious perfectionists in recording their music. They also were among the earliest artists to use music videos to promote their songs. Here’s their mega-hit, the Euro-Pop masterpiece, Dancing Queen – maybe the quintessential pop song of the 70s!

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