Björn has a lot to say nowadays. He was recently interviewed in "Humanisten", the magazine for Humanisterna an organisation Björn is a member of. Ice has a
translation on his excellent page. The following article by Björn was published in Expressen on 1 February:
It's necessary that religions are being challenged. When we are meeting religious fundamentalists, we have to look out for the secular socitey. Even religions must the subject of scrutiny and questioning and even be made fun of. Mankind has to take the responsibility for life on earth and not cowardly pass it on to a "higher power". This Björn Ulvaeus writes today.
"You have to exist, you have to", sings Kristina. I know that because I have written it. Kristina från Duvemåla. She is singing about God. About the God she needs to be able to cope in the northwestern outback. The lonely and vulnerable human being really wants to believe in something, something besides herself. Vilhelm Moberg, the atheist, created Kristina and he gave her a naive but very profound faith. Moberg, the atheist, must have had a lot of love for this wonderful, strong woman. Karl-Oskar, her husband, doesn't share her beliefs. But he doesn't judge it. He takes God's name in vain sometimes, but who doesn't? He questions often, but deep down inside he would like to believe in Kristina's God.
Maybe that's how it is with most of us. Like Karl-Oskar, we don't care much either way. We are tolerant. Even to those who are intolerence personified. The fundamentalists. In the long run it's an impossible stand. The fact that Denmark this Monday caved in for religious threats is a very bad sign. We have to stand for democratic and human gains we have made in Europe. We must constantly defend them. I think we should be proud over the ambition to achieve equality and our secularized societies. Even though we are not there yet completely we are at least making progress, unlike those who wants to take a step back into the misty religious days of the Middle Ages with patriatric hierarchies and oppresion of women and all that involves. Everything Voltaire,Newton,Einstein and all the other great philosophers and scientists achieved mustn't have been in vain. Even though what we call the Age of Enlightenment has passed some parts of the world by.
Religions must be challenged and scrutinized like every other phenomenon in a modern society. It is completely unacceptable that there should be a free zone for religious beliefs, that respect is expected for the beliefs of Eve being created by Adam's rib etc. In this aspect I think that the secular society has gotten a weaker position than in the 60's and 70's. The different religions' claim is growing today on behalf of sense and science. In many ways it feels like we are leaving the enlightened time and it scares me. We need strong secular answers to our times biggest questions. In this the USA, under Bush, has failed to do so. We need a secular America together with the European Union in the fight against fundamentalism. Instead we have a president who places creationism on an equal level with Darwin.
We who believe that religion is fiction are definitely not getting any respect nowadays from those who think it's true. If anyone wants to draw a picture that depict Muhammed or Jesus or Krishna he is entitled to do so. No matter how coarse it may be. If we forgo that right we are in trouble. We mustn't give in to death threats. None of us want to live in a society where we bow to the religious-fascist dark forces. Which, by the way, would have been a perfect target for Monty Python. Because it's easy to poke fun at men who claim that they are in direct contact with God. A God that happen to have a certain interest in certain ethnic groups in a desert area on a tiny planet in a small solar system, located on the outskirts of a small galaxy, which, in turn, is located on the outskirt of a universe.
If certain groups in Europe feel insulted by things that are written in the papers, in books or said on TV or radio, does that mean that you should refrain from saying so? Yes, if the only intent is to insult. No, if you want to mediate something else. It can be humour, serious things or inbetween. A society's democratic maturity is defined by how far you let the free speech go and at the same time where you voluntarily draw the line.
I don't believe in any god and because of that I think that religion should be conceived as any other ideology and that every child should be excused from every kind of indoctrination. According to this religious schools should be as unthinkable as political schools. Who would ever consider a communist or fascist school? Noone. What is happening within in a family, behind closed doors, that is something we neither can, nor should we, control. That makes it even more important to find a public arena where the child is exposed to values that are shared by society. An opposite view to the family's and, maybe in most cases, the father's values. It should be fairly easy to implement for all parties except maybe for the Christian Democrats. It's an absolute human right for a child in its most receptive age not to be subjected like this. Maybe a breeding ground for terrorism could be avoided if every child had the right to decide its spiritual abode when he or she is a grownup instead of getting a religious "back-pack" from his childhood.
When the immigrants in "Kristina från Duvemåla" celebrate their first time in America with a harvest home they sing: Vi som alltid hukat under låga tak We who always had to bend down under low roofs Tigande och sväljande förtreten Keeping silent, swallowing our annoyance Nu har vi rest oss, går med ryggen rak Now we have risen, walking up tall Här är vi kvitt överheten Here we are rid of the authorities BJÖRN ULVAEUS Björn Ulvaeus was a member of the pop group ABBA 1973-1980. In a week he will be going to the US for the production of the musical "Kristina från Duvemåla" on Broadway.
Benny was nervous, His hands were shaking. His hand never stopped trembling and he was costantly fiddling with his cigarrets. He said: - I don't know how other peole deal with things like this. Frida and I are still friends and I'm still a member of ABBA. We are still good friends, but we are not married anymore. Benny's divorce from toAnni-Frid Lyngsa was something that happed dramatically quickly a lot of their friends have told us. - Benny just cam home one day and said that he had met someone else. Frida was devestated. For one spceial reason. The myserious new woman in Benny's life is Mona Nörklit, 37 year old TV-employee.
- Mona is my new woman, you can all her that.
- Frida and I are still friends. She respects me and what we can do muscially together.'
BENNY MOST AFFECTED
But it's not the complete truth. There are no obvious disagreements beween Frídda & Benny, but there's is no laugher and joking around like it was back in the good old days.
He is the most affected person in all this drama.
- We discussed what was going to remain a the group in spite of all we hav been through. We decided to stay togeher for the sake of the music.
- We are fond of what we are doing musically and we we will be able to cope with this as long as we all feel comfortable.
- Sure, we know what we ae doing isn't art. I know we sell a h*ll of a lot of records and we are earning incredible sums of money for doing that. But that doesn't mean that much, what we find pleasure and joy in in is writing and arranging good songs.
- I can't imagie myself at example 45 years old dancing around the stag with a beerbelly, TheABBA-sound are the girls. If you take then out of the eqaution then ABBA couldn't exist.
- We are more or less homebodies and what keeps us grounded are the children. We are normal human beings. We have the same problem a lot of other people have.
ANNI-FRID: - I'm in love with another guy
Frida has a new boyfriend. She reveals that "he is a rich Swedish businessman".
- I hav learnt from my mistakes, my new husband is not going to be forced into the media frenzy. And that is why I can't tell you who he is. He is not part of the music business, soemething I appreciate a whole lot.
- He is part of my life now, but it's important to develop interests outside of the music business.
- Marriage is important to me, but love is more important. Marriage is no longer as important to me, but love is. We will se what happens.
- Any more children?
- I'm not sure I want to start all over again.
About her divoce from Benny Andersson she says:
- Now that Benny and I have broken up, we are able to work much better together.
- Our relationsip is not as intsense as it was, but we are still in contact. We have chosen to be competely honest with each other. We have alawys been very honest about relationship and after long and hard talks we decided to to go our separate ways.
WE HAD DIFFERENT INTERESTS
- We simply grew out of each other. It came down to our different goals in life.
- We have always been honest and talked about everything. We talked and talked and finally we agreed that a divorce would be the best solution.
- There was a lot of tears and a lot of discussions. But there was no way back. Breaking up became a necessity.
- People look at us with a way that has to do with their own imagination. It has very little to do with what is really going on between us.
ALL THREE GOOD FRIENDS
Frida tells us that she has introduced her new boyfriend to Benny and that all three of them are good friends now. Today Frida says that she is 'safe and secure'.
- When I started (my career) I thought it would be nice if the audience knew me as an individual.
- Their image of me was wrong. But that is somethings that doesn't bother me anymore. There is, however, something, how strange it might sound, worries Frida and that is money.
- Once a month we have a boardmeeting discussing finances. We all have to agree on every decision, I'm worried that we won't make the right decisions.
How Agnetha started - the dance band girl who became a superstar.
When she made her debut at Elverket's Christmas party at age five, she was so concentrating so hard on her singing that she didn't notice when her underpants fell off her. Just one of the funny details from the Jönköping girl Agnetha Fältskog's life - before she went to Stockholm and eventually became a superstar in ABBA. Here's the whole story...
Agnetha Fältskog, 31, is one of the world's most famous people. Always praised for her singing - and her sexy butt - she has, together with the other members of ABBA, ended up on the top of the entertainment superstar pyramid. England, Germany, Japan, Australia - and parts of the USA - are standing at her feet, applauding when she is singing, wheter she is dancing around with Frida in "Take A Chance On Me" or sitting alone at the piano, singing "I'm Still Alive". She is very beautiful, very sexy, v-e-r-y rich and very popular. She has made it. She has come a long way from Jönköping. Because it was there it all started. In 1955, five years old, Agnetha made her debut as a singer. She sang the song "Billy Boy" at Elverket's Christmas party. She was so concentrating so hard on her singing that she didn't notice when her underpants fell off her.
BARE BUTT At the age of seven she started writing her own songs. Her very first melody was called "Trollet Som Hade En Boll Och Träffade Ett Annat Troll" (The Troll Who Had a Ball and Met another Troll). A very romantic song with a happy ending.
Det var en gång ett litet troll som ägde en liten boll Han lekte med bollen hela dan Och rullade den ända in till stan Då kom ett annat troll och ville leka med hans boll En söt liten trolleflicka det var så söt och så rar som hade hela rumpan bar Trollpojken blev så kär nu han trollflickan i famnen bär med 20 trollbejbisar lika som bär
She abandoned the trolls when she became a teenager, but the romance was still there in the songs she wrote. Love and pain and sunsets over Vättern no end. Agnetha was convince that she had a future as a singer and she sang with a dance band. Bernt Enghardt's. Bernt Enghardt, 38, now works as a music teacher. He still lives in Huskvarna, close to Agnetha's home town Jönköping.
AGNETHA HIRED ON TRIAL BASIS
- Our vocalist Agneta Desiluva left the band in 1966, he tells us. We were quite popular in the mid sixties, so alot of girls auditioned when we advertised for a new singer.
Agnetha Fältskog, 16, was one of them.
- We had heard her singing before, because she was a member of a girl trio which had started in a school in Jönköping. And we thought that her clear and frail voice was well suited for the dance music we were playing. Agnetha Fältskog was hired on a trial basis.
"Bernt Enghards with the vocalist Agneta" was printed on posters and in ads. They didn't even have to print new posters, since the previous singer also was called Agneta. Without and "h" though, but noone cared about that.
- But that wasn't the only reason we choose her, Bernt says. We only realised that afterwards, when we have hired her. The bigger problem was the posters with photos of all the band members, but we just pasted a picture of Agnetha Fältskog over the previous singer.
The band had many gigs. Agnetha worked as a swithboard operator at the car company Atteviks Bil during the days and sang in the evenings. When she had been working with the band for a year she and her boyfriend broke up. She wrote the incredible sentimental "Jag Var Så Kär". The band included the song in their repertoire for a while.
- The response from the audiences weren't that great in the beginning. But after playing it for a while people started to like it.
Bernt Enghardt sent a demo tape of "Jag Var Så Kär" and "Utan Dej" (you can listen to the song in the right column!) to Little Gerhard, who was hosting a youth show on the radio. The song was played on the show.
- The comments from the staff at the radio was that Agnetha's voice wasn't good enough, Bernt tells us. On the other hand they wanted more tapes from the band, because they liked the musicians.
But Agnetha Fältskog is a stubborn "smålänning". She kept sending the tape to different record companies. And finally Cupol noticed her. But at the recording of the song Bernt Enghardt's didn't get to play the song. Agnetha had to go to Stockholm by herself and record the song with studio musicians. Well, not really by herself, her father Ingvar Fältskog joined her and held her hand.
Agnetha's main idol was Connie Francis, so she sounded a lot like her on the two songs that were recorded that day; "Jag Var Så Kär" and "Utan Dig".
FAINTED AT WORK
In 1967 Svensktoppen was the biggest thing. And that's were she ended up. "Jag Var Så Kär" came in at number 3 the first week. Success! Agnetha became an instant star.
She continued to work at the car company during the days and singing with Bernt Enghardt's in the evenings. But all the late nights, not enough food, too many cigarettes and not the best physical shape lead to Agnetha fainting at work one day.
Her mother Birgit got really worried and gave Agnetha an ultimatum: you either have to stop singing and concentrate on your job or you have to start singing only.
Agnetha left the car company in February 1968. The same year, in the fall, she left the band and started pursuing a solo career. And there were no shortage on offers.
- Agnetha was so happy when the job offers started coming in, her father Ingvar has said. She wanted to take on the first one. "But dad, I could never get more than SEK 800 for one night", she begged. But since Agnetha wasn't a grown up yet she wasn't allowed to sign any contracts. Pappa Ingvar, who was a better negotiator, managed to get her much better pay.
In 1969 Agnetha was promoted in Germany, but with disappointing results. But at least she met the five years older Dieter Zimmerman whom she got engaged to. It didn't last for long. Then she met the pretty boy singer Björn Ulvaeus from Hootenanny Singers and we all know the rest, engagment, wedding, a child, ABBA, Eurovision Song Contest, even more ABBA, another child, and ABBA ABBA ABBA ABBA and then divorce.
Agnetha's life has certainly been spinning quickly since she left Jönköping and Bernt Enghardt's. She doesn't need anyone to hold her hand anymore when she is recording or stop her when she wants to sell her talent to cheaply. The little vocalist Agnetha is now a big girl.
The Västervik folkmusic festival takes places every summer. Björn and Tony Roth who both were members of Hootenanny Singers took the stage and played a medley in honor of former member Hansi Schwartz, who died on January 10, 2013.