Monday, 30 July 2012

Story, January 1981: ABBA's music is keeping a mortally ill little boy alive

Making millions and millions every year with your music is very nice. But keeping a five-year-old boy alive with your music, now that's a different story. ABBA knows something about that.

One letter out of the tens of thousands that are being delivered at the offices of the ABBA management. A letter from grateful parents. At first, Agnetha doesn't even want to talk about it. It's an emotional matter between these parents and ABBA. Finally, she hands over the letter for us to read if we promise that we don't mention any names. It's a moving letter.
"Our litte son has become a victim of a traffic accident," the father writes. "He has been hit by a truck and brought over to the hospital more dead than alive. We were desperate. We didn't know what to do. He had always been so cheerful and full of life. And he loved your music. He sang along to all the songs."
The little boy remained in a coma for weeks. He didn't respond to all the sweet words that were whispered to him. Then his father got an idea. He brought along a cassette player to the small hospital bed and softly played tapes of ABBA. The little boy responded. At first almost imperceptible. Later on he moved his lips and eyelids.
"Afterwards he has been in critical condition a couple of times. When the situation was critical, no one was allowed near him," the father writes. "But I managed to persuade the doctors that they still had to play ABBA's music. After all, that had been his major joy in life."
It is unknown whether the upbeat sounds of the Swedish group played any part in it, but the boy is recovering. It will take a long time, but someday he will be healthy again. Agnetha feels a lump in her throat when she talks about it.
"It can't be described what you feel when you realize that you can mean something like this to people. It moves me deeply. And then we can't even be really credited for it. Anni-Frid and I are only singing it. It's Björn and Benny who write the music. I know it's an enormous gratification for them that they can make people this happy."
Benny confirms this. He nods and smiles modestly. "Money doesn't play any part anymore at such a moment," he says. "It would also be a big misunderstanding to think that our most important aim is making money. Then we would have quit a couple of years ago, because then we already had more than enough resources to lead the rest of our life in leisure. Music is communication. You achieve something with other people. That's important. This father's letter is proof of that. At moments like this I can only be thankful that I have the gift to be able to write such music."
Indeed, this isn't the only letter that shows what kind of impact ABBA's music has on people. Somewhat smilingly, Benny says that they have saved a couple of marriages already, that they kept desperate people from committing suicide and brought lovers together. "In their gratitude, these people write letters. We don't get to see everything that's written to us. Then we wouldn't have any time left to do other things. But we always see letters like this. It's inspiring."
It's remarkable that the four ABBA members are making millions of people a little happier with their music, but they don't get any happier themselves. Sometimes even on the contrary.
"There's an enormous amount of pressure on us," Benny Andersson says. "It has become necessary to shut ourselves off from the outer world, otherwise we wouldn't have a moment of peace anymore. That's not much fun, because in a way you are locked up. Personally, I don't mind it that much. Nor does Björn. Most of the time we are busy with our music and then we don't even notice what's happening around us. But the girls are having a difficult time with it. Especially Agnetha can't handle it sometimes."
"That's true," she says. She doesn't want to talk about her marriage to Björn anymore. That subject is closed. Everything that was true and untrue about that subject has been written already. Still she admits that the pressure of fame has had something to do with it. "The irritating thing is that this emotional turmoil had a physical effect on me as well. Time and time again I had to see a doctor. I had headaches, pain in my chest, in my arms, you name it. It was clear to that man that there was nothing wrong with me physically. He explained to me that when you are having emotional problems, it shows through your body. So I went to see a psychiatrist to explore this."
Agnetha rubs her temples for a while. Obviously, this hasn't been easy on her. All of a sudden she seems tired. "Going to a psychiatrist is a big step. Like many other people, I thought you had to be really crazy to reach that stage. But later on I came to realize that that's nonsense of course. A human being consists of a body and a mind. When there's something wrong with your body, you go to the doctor. When your mind isn't working properly, then you deserve a treatment too. But from a different kind of doctor."
It's the price she has to pay for the mind-boggling successes that ABBA has experienced, after winning the Eurovision Song Contest more than six years ago.

How is Agnetha doing now? She looks healthy and radiant, so she seems to be doing fine. "I feel good too. Psychotherapy has helped me a great deal. I try to look after my body to the best of my ability. If I can manage it, I eat as healthy as possible and I exercise a lot."
It's obvious that performing and working with her ex-husband Björn has been the cause of tensions too. It's not easy staying in each other's company when you have decided to separate.
"Oh well," Agnetha plays down that explanation. She rummages in the pile of mail and takes out the letter of the grateful father. "I could tell you long stories about my so-called inconveniences. But then I should actually be deeply ashamed. Mail like this is very instructive for me. When I lose myself in things like this, then I think that there can't be anything wrong with me. Nothing at all. Only when I would write letters like this myself, I would have a reason to complain."


Monica said...

Now that is a nice story. :o)

Angela said...

Very sad I hope the little boy recovered I can imagine what his parents were going through its a terrible time.

Anonymous said...

Earlier in former time I said already ABBA's music can heal and I have personally experienced it. One of the best could be a horse-music-therapy in Ekerö ;oD


Joking aside, I still find the article kind of sad.

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