She had her debut as a singer at a Christmas party in Jönköping. She sang the song ‘Billy Boy’ and the audience was delighted with this cute little girl with her sweet voice. Although she was only five years old at the time, she could sing already.
Agnetha Ase Fältskog – that’s her full name – was born on April 5, 1950 and the love for music was to the manner born. Her father Ingvar wrote sketches and songs for the New Year’s revue in Jönköping, her mother Birgit was a talented singer, although she never performed in public.
Things should be different for little daughter Agnetha. When she was only six years old, she took piano lessons and one year later she had her own piano. “Until I was 13 years old, I took piano lessons and I even practised on the church organ,” Agnetha remembers.
That she could do more with her voice than produce a nice ‘tralala’ was noticed by the members of Bernt Enghardt’s orchestra too. They were desperately looking for a singer, they heard Agnetha and they hired her right away.
At the time, the fifteen-year-old had just finished high school and she worked as a telephone operator at a car firm. But combining the two jobs soon became too much for Agnetha. “We were getting more and more requests for performances. Sometimes I came home at five o’clock in the morning and three hours later I had to work as a telephone operator. In the end I just couldn’t cope with it any longer. I simply didn’t get enough sleep. My mother told me that I had to choose: working at the office or singing. I chose singing. My parents weren’t too happy about that.”
The joy came a while after that, when Agnetha was offered her first record deal and a proud father drove his daughter to Stockholm for the recording sessions. On this day, Agnetha sang four songs. Among them was ‘Jag Var Så Kär’ (I Was So In Love). This meant a breakthrough for Agnetha. When the ten best Swedish songs were played on the radio on January 28, 1968, her song was at number three. The more than two million listeners to the programme were impressed and so were the newspapers the next day. All of a sudden, this seventeen-year-old girl was a somebody.
Now, the tough preparation for show business started for Agnetha. At the advice of her record company, she took singing lessons, on the side she composed and wrote lyrics. Although these days she doesn’t like to be reminded about those lyrics. “I think the melodies are okay, but the lyrics are horrible.”
In 1968, Agnetha got engaged to Dieter Zimmermann, a German composer and producer. He wanted to launch her career in Germany. But the engagement ended and so did her career. Agnetha: “I wanted to sing my own songs, but they chose songs for me. They were bad.”
Agnetha returned to her home country, became successful again and met her true love, in the shape of a musician named Björn Ulvaeus, whom she met on a tour through the Swedish folk parks. Sparks were flying between the two in the summer of 1969 when they performed together on a television show. From then on it was blow upon blow. During their holiday in Cyprus in April 1970, Björn and Agnetha got engaged. On July 7, 1971 they were standing at the wedding altar in the Verum church in Skane.
But the wedding almost fell through. A hearing problem of the vicar Uno Wardener was to blame. When Björn called him to set the date for the wedding, the vicar asked: “And what is your profession?” Björn: “Artists.” The vicar was startled: “Oh, atheists! Then I don’t think the wedding will be possible.” The wedding took place after all. With Anni-Frid and Benny as witnesses to the marriage.
In 1975, Agnetha released her last and sixth album ‘Elva Kvinnor I Ett Hus’ (Eleven Women In One House) with her old record company CBS. From January 1, 1976 onwards, Agnetha is under contract at Polar record company, just like all ABBA members. “From then on, I haven’t composed a single song. I simply don’t have the time and the inspiration.”
Agnetha, Björn and Linda are currently living in a beautiful house in Lidingö. Privately, they rarely get together with Anni-Frid and Benny. “In the summer, when we are on our island, we see each other every day. But at home in Stockholm not that much. And since I got Linda, Björn and I have become true couch potatoes.”
A handwriting expert once said, after studying Agnetha’s handwriting: “She is practical, thick-skinned and she likes to get together with other people.”
Agnetha doesn’t agree with this characterisation. She sees herself like this: “I am insecure and hot-tempered, I explode very easily.” But she also knows that her clear voice is an important part of ABBA. Without Agnetha, ABBA would not have been this successful.