Agnetha Åse 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). 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 musical influences.
Fältskog wrote her first song at the age of six, entitled "Två små troll" ("Two Little Trolls"). In 1958, she began taking piano lessons, and also sang in a local church choir. In early 1960, Fältskog formed a musical trio, The Cambers, with her friends Lena Johansson and Elisabeth Strub. They performed locally in minor venues and soon dissolved due to a lack of engagements. At age 15, Fältskog decided to leave school and pursue a career.
Career development in Sweden (1966–1971)
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 record producer at Cupol Records. Enghardt sent him a demo recording 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 single "Jag var så kär", written by herself, was released through Cupol Records in 1967, and topped the Swedish Chart on 28 January 1968 and sold more than 80.000 copies. She also submitted the song "Försonade" to Melodifestivalen, the Swedish preliminary for 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 artists, participating in a television special about pilots in 1968. 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.
Her success continued throughout the late 1960s. She then met German songwriter/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 ABBA. This was in spite of a claim from a Danish composer that she had used 22 bars from his composition "Tema", even though it 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 1972, Fältskog portrayed Mary Magdalene in the Swedish production of the international musical hit Jesus Christ Superstar.
Marriage to Björn Ulvaeus and years with ABBA (1971–1982)
Fältskog met Björn Ulvaeus, a member of the Hootenanny Singers, for the first time in 1968, and then again 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 number 11, although Lyngstad's album fared better because it included the huge Swedish radio hit "Fernando" which was only available on the album. However, Elva kvinnor i ett hus did spend 53 weeks on the chart ("Ensam" spent 38 weeks on the chart), even longer than any of ABBA's albums and, and it also contained three further Svensktoppen entries for Fältskog: her Swedish language version of ABBA's "SOS" (also number 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 Fältskog started writing the songs, but it was delayed because of the work with ABBA and her pregnancy. In 1974, she and Carlgren had 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. Some of the criticism of this album seems to be the oddness of the lyrics, as the concept didn't explain the 'eleven women'.
Between the years 1968 and 1980, Fältskog had a total of 18 entries on the Svensktoppen radio chart, starting with debut single "Jag Var Så Kär" in January 1968 (peak position number 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 number 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" (number 1, 15 weeks). Fältskog also recorded the Swedish Christmas album Nu tändas tusen juleljus with daughter Linda Ulvaeus which peaked at number 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 performed in its English version (lyrics by ex-husband Björn Ulvaeus) during ABBA's 1979 world tour. Moberg's recording of the song remains the only version to have been officially released to date.
International solo career development (1982–1990)
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.
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 number 1 in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium and Denmark (where it became the biggest-selling album of the year), and number 18 in the UK. Fältskog sold 1.2 million records of her first solo album after ABBA. Two singles from the album became hits in continental Europe. "The Heat Is On" became a number 1 hit in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, but only just scraped into the UK Top 40. The title track also peaked at number 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 number 23 on the RPM Top 50 singles chart in Canada.
The same year, Fältskog was voted by the readers of Aftonbladet as Best Female Artist of the Year, and received the Music Award Price Rockbjörnen.
Her next studio album, Eyes of a Woman, produced by Eric Stewart of 10cc, 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, peaking at number 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.
In 1986, Fältskog recorded another duet, "The Way You Are", with Swedish singer Ola Håkansson, which became another number 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 Released in November of that year, it was a minor hit in Europe, except for Sweden where it spent eight weeks at number 1 and became the best-selling album of 1988 and entering the Top 15 in Norway. The single from the album, "I Wasn't the One (Who Said Goodbye)", 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, peaking at number 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 went on hiatus from her musical career and completely withdrew from public life.
1990–2004: second marriage, a Dutch stalker and As I Am biography
In 1990, Fältskog married Swedish surgeon Tomas Sonnenfeld. They divorced in 1993. She also had a two-year relationship with Dutchman Gert van der Graaf at the end of the 1990s during which time she invited him to live with her. After Fältskog had decided to terminate the relationship, he stalked her at her mansion, resulting in a court issuing Van der Graaf with a restraining order. He was arrested in 2003 and banned from entry into Sweden. 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 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, including one called My Love, My Life for which Fältskog picked out the music herself. Hardcore fans welcomed the autobiography, but critics panned it.
2004–present: return to music: 'My Colouring Book', uniting with B+B+A to promote 'Mamma Mia!', 'A'
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 peaked at number 2 in Sweden, number 11 in the UK, and became a sizable 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, number 6 in Germany and peaking at number 12 in the United Kingdom. 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 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 United Kingdom alone. A second single release from the album, "When You Walk in the Room", peaked at number 11 in Sweden and also entered the UK Top 40. "Sometimes When I'm Dreaming", originally recorded by Art Garfunkel, failed to be released as the third single from the album.
Shortly after this release, for the 2004 semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Istanbul 30 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. It was billed as the first time the four had worked together since the group split. In fact, while Björn and Benny filmed their more extensive parts together, Frida and Agnetha were filmed for a very short appearance separately and edited to appear together.
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 Ulvaeus, 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.
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 number 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.
In January 2009, Fältskog appeared onstage together with Lyngstad at Swedish Rockbjörnen Awards to receive a lifetime honorary award for ABBA, and even giving a short, lightweight interview.
In February 2010, ABBA World, an extensive multi-million pound exhibition, debuted at London's Earls Court and included an extensive interview with Fältskog 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.
In October 2010, Fältskog was at the opening of Mamma Mia! the musical in Denmark with former husband Ulvaeus.
On 4 October 2012, Fältskog's business manager Stefan Linde confirmed in the Swedish press that Fältskog was in the process of recording a new album of original material to be released by Universal Music. Svenska Dagbladet states that the producer is Jörgen Elofsson, who has produced many international artists, including Westlife, Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson.
On 11 March 2013 it was announced that the album is called "A" and is produced by Jörgen Elofsson and Peter Nordahl. Pre-orders have appeared on the New Zealand, Australia, Russia & the UK iTunes Store. It will be released on 10 May 2013 (13 May in the UK). In the UK the first single "When You Really Loved Someone" was released for download on 11 March, the music video was also released on the same day. In Germany the first single is "The One Who Loves You Now" and it was also released for download on 11 March 2013. The album includes a duet with Gary Barlow "I Should've Followed You Home".
Photo 1: Agnetha modelling pic taken in 1967.
Photo 2: Agnetha as a child.
Photo 3: Agnetha modelling pic from 1967.
Photo 4: Agnetha and then boyfriend (later husband) Björn Ulvaeus in 1969.
Photos 5 & 6: Agnetha and daugher Linda pictured in 1973.
Photo 7: Agnetha modelling pic from 1972.
Photo 8: Agnetha and Linda pictured in 1974.
Photo 9: Agnetha and Björn with their daughter Linda in 1974.
Photo 10: Classical ABBA portrait circa 1975/76.
And today is also Jane Asher's birthday :)