G?ran Bror Benny Andersson (born in Stockholm, Sweden on 16 December 1946) is a Swedish musician, composer, a former member of the Swedish musical group ABBA (1972-1982), and co-composer of the musicals Chess, Kristina fr?n Duvem?la, and Mamma Mia!. Currently active with his own band Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO!), and executive-producing the film version of the musical Mamma Mia! ABBA is one of the best known 70's musical groups.
Andersson was born to 34-year-old construction engineer G?sta Andersson and his 26-year-old wife Laila. His sister Eva-Lis Andersson followed in 1948.
Andersson's musical background comes basically from his father and grandfather; they both enjoyed playing the accordion, and at six, Benny got his own. Father G?sta and grandfather Efraim taught him Swedish folk music, traditional music, and the odd schlager. Benny recalls the first records he bought were "Du Bist Musik" by Italian schlager singer Caterina Valente and Elvis Presley's rendition of "Jailhouse Rock"; this sm?rg?sbord of different kinds of music was to influence and follow him through the years.
When Andersson was ten he got his own piano, and taught himself to play. He left school aged 15 and began to perform at youth clubs. This is when he met his first girlfriend Christina Gr?nvall, with whom he had two children: Peter (born 1963) and Helen (born 1965).
In early 1964, Benny and Christina joined a group with the odd name "Elverkets Spelmanslag" ("The Electricity Board Folk Music Group"), who by no means was a folk music ensemble: the name was a punning reference to their electric instruments. The repertoire was mainly instrumentals, and Benny recalls one of his standout numbers was "Baby Elephant Walk". He also wrote his first pieces of songwriting around this time for this band.
In March 1964, "Elverket Spelmanslag" was up against another band in a talent contest, The Hep Stars. When Benny stepped in as the Hep Stars' keyboardist in October of that year, he knew this was what he wanted to do.
The Hep Stars years (1964-1969)
The Hep Stars got their breakthrough in March 1965 with their massive hit "Cadillac", eventually becoming the most celebrated of the Swedish 1960s pop bands. Andersson consolidated his place as the band's keyboardist and musical driving force as well as a teen idol. The band performed mostly covers of international hits, but Andersson soon started writing own material, and gave the band the classic hits "No Response", "Sunny Girl", "Wedding", "Consolation", "It's Nice To Be Back" and "She Will Love You" amongst others.
Before ABBA (1969-1972)
Andersson met Bj?rn Ulvaeus in June 1966, and the two started writing songs together, their first being "Isn't It Easy To Say", eventually recorded by The Hep Stars. He also had a fruitful songwriting collaboration with Lasse Berghagen, with whom he wrote several songs and submitted "Hej, Clown" for the 1969 Melodifestivalen - the Swedish Eurovision Song Festival finals. The song finished in second place. During this contest he met vocalist Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and they soon became a couple. Around the same time his songwriting companion Ulvaeus met vocalist Agnetha F?ltskog.
The personal relationships and Andersson and Ulvaeus' songwriting collaboration has led quite naturally to the very close co-operation which the four friends had during the following years. Benny and Bj?rn scored their first hits as songwriters in the spring of 1969: "Ljuva Sextiotal" (a hit with Brita Borg) and "Speleman" (a hit for The Hep Stars). As the two couples began supporting each other during recording sessions, the sound of the girls' voices convinced the songwriters to model their 'group' on the like of MOR acts Blue Mink, Middle of the Road and The Sweet. Thus, ABBA came to life.
The ABBA years (1972-1982)
Main article: ABBA
The foursome's breakthrough came with winning the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden with "Waterloo" on 6 April 1974. During the next eight years, Andersson (together with Ulvaeus) wrote music to and produced eight studio albums with the ABBA. The group achieved great success globally and scored a chain of #1 hits. One of these hits, (Mamma Mia) later was formed into a musical in 1999. It has been performing for ten years now.
After ABBA: "Chess" , "Kristina" and "Mamma Mia!"
After ABBA broke up in 1983, Andersson continued writing music with Ulvaeus. Their first project was the stage musical Chess, written with Tim Rice. The "Chess" concept album - with vocals by Elaine Paige, Barbara Dickson, Murray Head and Swedes Tommy K?rberg and Bj?rn Skifs - was released in October 1984, selling two million copies worldwide. The Paige/Dickson duet "I Know Him So Well" became a major #1 hit, and Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok" gave Andersson/Ulvaeus a US #3 hit.
'Chess' was staged in London's West End Prince Edward Theatre in May 1986, and ran for almost three years. A Broadway staging in April 1988 received disastrous reviews, and closed after just two months.
In 1985, Andersson produced and released an album with brother and sister Anders and Karin Glenmark, featuring new songs by Andersson/Ulvaeus. The duo named themselves Gemini, and a second album with more music by Bj?rn and Benny was released in April 1987, containing the big hit "Mio My Mio"; also to be found on the soundtrack to the film Mio in the Land of Faraway, for which Andersson co-produced the music.
In 1987, Andersson released his first solo album "Klinga Mina Klockor" ('Chime, My Bells'). All the music was written by and performed by himself on accordion, backed by the Orsa Spelm?n (Orsa Folk Musicians) on fiddles. A second solo album followed: November 1989.
In 1990, Andersson scored a Swedish #1 hit with "Lassie", sung by female cabaret group, the Ainbusk Singers, for whom he also wrote the Svensktoppen hits "?lska Mig" and "Dr?mmarnas Golv". He decided to produce an album with Josefin Nilsson from this quartet, resulting in the 1993 English-language album Shapes, featuring ten new Andersson/Ulvaeus compositions.
In 1992, he wrote the introduction melody for the European football championship, which was organized by Sweden that year.
From the late 1980s, Andersson had worked on an idea for an epic Swedish language musical based on his affection for traditional folk music, and in October 1995, "Kristina fr?n Duvem?la" premiered in Sweden. The musical was based on The Emigrants novels by Swedish writer Vilhelm Moberg. The musical ran successfully for almost five years, before closing in June 1999. It currently holds in workshops for an English production on Broadway: "Kristina".
Andersson's next project was Mamma Mia!, a musical built around 24 of ABBA's songs, which has become a worldwide box-office blockbuster with versions in several languages currently being played in many countries, including the UK (West End premiere in April 1999, USA (Broadway premiere in 2001) and Sweden (Swedish language premiere in 2005).
For the 2004 semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Istanbul thirty years after ABBA had won the contest in Brighton, Benny 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.
A film version of Mamma Mia! premiered on 18 July 2008. In April/May 2007, Andersson worked on the film soundtrack, re-recording the old ABBA songs with musicians from the old ABBA recording sessions. Mamma Mia the movie has now become the most successful movie musical of all time and has been named the number one box office smash of 2008, and the biggest-selling DVD ever in the UK.
Kristina's English-language premiere on 23 (and 24) September 2009 at Carnegie Hall, New York received rave reviews.
Benny Anderssons Orkester
Benny Andersson Orchestra at a concert in Minnesota in 2006.
Andersson currently performs with his own band of 16 musicians, BAO; "Benny Anderssons Orkester" ("Benny Andersson's orchestra"), utilising the vocal talents of fellow swedes Helen Sj?holm (from Kristina from Duvem?la) and Tommy K?rberg (of Chess fame), with lyrics to new material sometimes written by his song-writing partner and best-friend of 40 years, Bj?rn Ulvaeus. BAO has released three albums to huge success in Sweden, all containing hit singles.
BAO recently achieved a new record in Sweden on the Svensktoppen chart by staying there for 243 weeks with the song Du ?r min man ("You Are My Man"), sung by Helen Sj?holm.
Andersson composes primarily for his 'band' BAO! and the vocalists Sj?holm and K?rberg, but keeps his older material alive through re-visiting it, like the staging of 'Mamma Mia!' and the Swedish version of 'Chess'. For a compilation album of the Glenmark duo Gemini, Andersson had Bj?rn Ulvaeus write new Swedish lyrics for the re-recording of two old songs; Ulvaeus also wrote new English lyrics to older Swedish language songs for opera singer Anne Sofie Von Otter tribute album "I Let The Music Speak". Andersson has written the music to songs recorded by Anders Ekborg ("Han Som Har Vunnit Allt"] and Barbara Dickson ("The Day The Wall Came Tumbling Down"). The song "K?rlekens Tid" -performed by Helen Sj?holm with BAO!- -has also been performed in English by opera baritone Bryn Terfel. English language versions of the songs from Kristina fr?n Duvem?la (which is in process of being translated) is also pr?miered.
BAO! performed at the premi?re of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm 4 July 2008, and on Swedish television on 5 August.
Benny Andersson has written music to several films for screen and television; the first attempt in the early 1970s for the obscure Swedish movie The Seduction Of Inga: the film flopped, but the 'Bj?rn & Benny' single "She's My Kind Of Girl" surprised the composers by being released in Japan and becoming a Top 10 hit (the song re-named in Japan as "The Little Girl Of The Cold Wind").
In 1987, Andersson wrote music and co-produced the soundtrack with Anders Eljas for the film Mio in the Land of Faraway, based on Swedish author Astrid Lindgrens Mio, my Mio. The title song became a huge hit in Sweden for Gemini.
In 2000, Benny wrote the music for fellow Swede (no relation) Roy Andersson's film Songs from the Second Floor (the music later re-recorded, featuring new lyrics, with BAO! with vocals by Helen Sj?holm). He also wrote the theme for Roy Andersson's next film, You, the Living, from 2007.
Andersson also worked on the film adaptation of Mamma Mia!
Together with Ulvaeus, Andersson was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in a category "Outstanding Music" (for the musical Chess), and for a Tony Award in a category "Best Orchestrations" (for musical Mamma Mia!). Original cast recordings of both musicals were nominated for a Grammy Award. Andersson/Ulvaeus also won one a Touring Broadway Award for the musical "Mamma Mia" (best score).
During his post-ABBA career Andersson won four Swedish Grammis awards, and together with Ulvaeus received the "Special International" Ivor Novello award from 'The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters', twice "The Music Export Prize" from the Swedish Ministry of Industry and Trade (2008), as well as the "Lifetime Achievement" award from the Swedish Music Publishers Association (SMFF). In 2002, Andersson was given an honorary professorship by the Swedish Government for his "ability to create high-class music reaching people around the world".
In 2007, he was elected a member of Royal Swedish Academy of Music, and in 2008 received an Honorary Doctorate from the Stockholm University Faculty of Humanities for contributing importantly both to the preservation and the growth of the Swedish folk music tradition.
Andersson was engaged to Christina Gr?nvall after she became pregnant by him when he was just 15 years old. In 1963 they had a son, Peter Gr?nvall and later a daughter, H?lene. They split in 1966 and never married. Christina kept custody of the children as Andersson was at the peak of his Hep Stars' success. In the 1990s, Peter formed One More Time, a group that enjoyed European success with the Abba-like "Highland" and later as Sweden's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest 1996.
Andersson was engaged to Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA for about nine years. They married in October 1978 but divorced in 1981. He married Swedish TV presenter Mona N?rklit in November 1981, and had a son, Ludvig (born January 1982). Ludvig has since followed in his father's footsteps in forming his own band, Ella Rouge.
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