Agnetha Fältskog, 5 years old: I'm going to become world famous!
Agnetha Fältskog's life is like a fairytale. In this article she personally tells Allers' reporter how it all began and how things turned out. A gentle, sensitive and humble person's story about her way to worldwide fame.
By Åge Ramsby
On a spring day in 1955 in Jönköping, a cute little blonde girl, dressed in a light blue dress, toddled up the stairs in an apartment building on Tegelbruksgatan 8 A and knocked on the door at the Andersson family.
That's where Enid and Sigvard Andersson lived. He was a music teacher, nowadays a regional musician. They had just bought a piano. It was placed in the drawing room of course and Sigvard was sitting there playing on it.
Since the house wasn't soundproof, every single tone could be heard in the apartment below, where Birgit and Ingvar Fältskog lived with their daughter Agnetha.
It was the piano tones that had captured the interest of Agnetha. It sounded beautiful and exciting. Something had happened upstairs. Since Agnetha was a curious child, she toddled up the stairs to take a look.
The Anderssons and Fältskogs had spent time together for many years, both in the city and in the country. Enid and Sigvard knew Agnetha ever since she was born on an April day in 1950. She was so to speak a child in the Andersson home as well and she came and went as she pleased.
Agnetha was standing completely still in the doorway of the drawing room. It was as if the whole room exploded with tones when Sigvard laughed and played. He lifted up the girl and put her on the piano chair.
Cautiously, fumbling a bit, Agnetha raised her right index finger and pushed down a piano key:
Her face lit up with a happy smile and she pushed it down with her finger one more time.
Her eyes sparkled. She liked that sound:
Without realizing it, she had suddenly received joy in her hands:
When she woke up the next morning, she was very eager to go to the Anderssons and play the piano. She went. Got up on the piano chair. Got comfortable and began imitating uncle Sigge, which is what she called him.
With all her might, she pushed down the piano keys. Using all fingers, or rather both hands.
She came back the next day and the next and next after that. The Andersson family had suddenly become very important in her young life. There was the piano. Hardly a day passed by without Agnetha sitting by the Andersson's piano.
In broad outline, this is the background to Agnetha Fältskog, six weeks later, as a fairly self-assured and confident piano playing 5 year old, making the following two important and vital decisions:
1) To become a singer.
2) To become world famous.
I'm not going to go as far as saying that it was Enid and Sigvard Andersson who discovered this world famous star, but they were at least the first ones who got to hear Agnetha playing the piano. In a way the Anderssons became some sort of a starting engine for Agnetha's musical career.
-She was a clever child, says Sigvard alias Sigge to Allers today. It wasn't very difficult to see that she was a girl with talent, he adds.
What was she like as a child? Was she unruly, kind, was she up to mischief, do you remember some funny episode with her?
-Agnetha was just like any other child. She was so kind and sweet and capable, very, very ambitious, says Enid.
-Last fall I met her in the elevator and we gave each other a hug, says Sigge. And I want to say, that Agnetha is still the same nice person today as she was when she first left Jönköping. The success hasn't changed her. She doesn't have an attitude, she's not a diva. To put it briefly, she is Agnetha.
-When that tinkling on the piano began, I soon realized that the music was in her blood, says Sigge. But I can't remember if she sang while she was sitting there tinkling on the piano like children usually do. Let me ask Enid. Did she sing?
-Oh yes, she sang, Enid says. She sang loudly and thought it was so much fun. What a child! She was so cute.
Sigvard Andersson made arrangements so that Agnetha could begin studying at musical school at the age of 7 and her first music-teacher was Miss Frick. Her career was about to begin.
It turned out that it was very easy for her. The 7 year old was full of music, which manifested in several own compositions.
-I still have some of them today, says Agnetha.
About ten years ago I met her after a solo performance at Malmö Folkets Park. I was there with Expressen's reporter Inger-Marie Opperud, whose assignment was to write about her performance. Afterwards we went to the Savoy bar. Agnetha kept talking about music, how difficult it is and how important it is. I remember that she had a warm and friendly charisma. You spontaneously liked her. When she was talking, she always said something. There was no empty talk.
The next day in Expressen, she received good reviews for her performance. An artist making headway.
Now, more than ten years later, a beautiful early summer day, the photographer Alice Stridh and I sit at Hamngatan 11 in Stockholm - at the top in Benny's and Björn's music room, where a lot of beautiful music has been created - waiting for her. She arrives 14 minutes late.
The first you notice is her rhythmic flowing walk - almost oriental. The second that she is shy, completely natural. The third that the charisma I remember from Savoy is exactly the same. She sits down on the sofa.
Is there anything that hasn't been written about you, I ask.
-Yes, my real private life...
Her reply comes as soft and quick as her genuine, infectious smile. She is wearing tight pirate like pants, light green with small black dots. A lilac colored jumper, lightly pink colored glasses, and nougat colored suede pumps. In short, it's a beautiful woman sitting there on the sofa. Sometimes she blushes lightly. Her eyes are blue green and very friendly. She's barely wearing any make up.
-My first memories of my childhood are from around the age of five, she says. That's when I decided to become a singer, a world famous one. The Anderssons' piano excited me and my will power and determination just grew.
-I also remember how I by myself tried to play tones and learn notes. It was incredibly exciting. Then I got a baby sister as well, Mona. It was a very eventful year, my fifth.
-Two years later something incredible happens. I get my own piano. My mom and dad had bought one.
Top end all speculations that she was a child prodigy, I do a routine check with uncle Sigge. He says:
-A child prodigy, no, she wasn't one. But there was lots of talent and music in her body.
Agnetha really didn't have to nag to get her own piano. It was enough that she daily went upstairs to the Anderssons.
-I was so happy when we had bought our own piano, says Agnetha. I was glued to it all day long. I'll never forget that.
During this interview the phone rings and Agnetha gets the message that her new LP ("Wrap Your Arms Around Me") which then had been available in stores for 48 hours had sold 100 000 copies - that means it's a diamond album.
-Wow, she says, that's not bad...
Next day in an article in Expressen the headline says "Diamond-Agnetha".
The reviews of the new LP have been exuberant. She's praised as a great artist, as an emotional person with an impressing wide range. So ABBA works as separate, independent elements so to speak.
Back to Tegelbruksgatan where it all began.
Shortly after Agnetha, 5 years old, had decided to become a singer and world famous, she made her debut as a composer and lyric writer. The piece was called "Två små troll" ("Two small trolls"). The melody was similar to "Blinka lilla stjärna". Agnetha laughs.
-I still think I have it, she says.
Her father Ingvar meant a lot to Agnetha as a source of inspiration. He was an amateur actor, the variety show king of the area. He sang and played and this had of course an affect on his daughter.
Agnetha kept growing and developed and she became better in the subject of music. When she was 13 years old, her last piano teacher said:
-Well, Agnetha, I'm afraid I don't have anything else left to teach you...
-That made me proud, says Agnetha.
Just like other amateurs, Agnetha Fältskog also sent cassettes of her and her friends' repertoire to Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio) and music publishers to get discovered, but no one was interested.
-When I was 13 years old I played complicated Bach-fugues in Kristina kyrka (church) in Jönköping, she says. They weren't exactly easy pieces... The level of ambition was high. At the same time I was a member of the church choir and we sang together often and willingly. A good choir.
She also sang together with two other girls who just like Agnetha were dreaming of fame and success.
Agnetha was now a teenager. Her was had matured. Her talent was beginning to blossom. During the day she worked as a phone operator at Atteviks bilfirma (car dealer). In her spare time she sang in Bernt Enghardts orchestra from Husqvarna - a popular dance band.
-We performed every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday eve. It was tough. Often we came home late at night. After just a few hours of rest I had to get up to go to work. One day I couldn't take it any longer. I collapsed due to exhaustion. Then I decided that I would quit my job as a phone operator and completely devote myself to a career in music and singing.
Agnetha was now 16 years old and a local celebrity in many parts of Småland. Everybody liked her voice. She was cute and she attracted an audience. And she continued to write her own songs. One cassette was mailed to the record company Cupol in Stockholm, where Little Gerhard was the director of production. He listened and said:
-She has talent, we want her...
Little Gerhard became Agnetha's actual discoverer. What Sveriges Radio and other music publishers had missed, Little Gerhard noticed.
In November 1967 short press items and articles appeared about a seventeen year old from Jönköping whose name was Agnetha Fältskog, who had made her debut with her own single which was called "Jag var så kär". On the record label it said:
Text and music: Agnetha Fältskog.
-It has been a long time since we've had such a promising debutante, the management of Cupol said. We're going to try to market her in West Germany.
The ice had been broken. Agnetha was starting to become big in little Sweden. But there was still a long way to the stars.
When she was 18 years old she moved to Stockholm, still with the ambition to become world famous. She lived under quite modest circumstances and she rented a room from a family in Danderyd for two years.
-Actually, it's because of my secure childhood that I have a lot to be grateful for, says Agnetha. This secure upbringing has made me strong as an adult.
-The security consisted of for example that my mom was always at home and we had routines and schedules that we followed. When I came home from school my mom was there and ten mutes past five every day, my dad came home from work. And then I went to bed at a certain time and got up at a certain time.
-My parents have been and are wonderful people. Things like that are important when you have your own children.
Between 1968 and 1971 Agnetha Fältskog regularly worked in West Germany, mainly Berlin. It was a rewarding period.
-But the competition was tough. I did pretty well even though there was no big breakthrough.
-I think I recorded six singles in Berlin. A big market that many have tried to succeed in, but few have managed to. Those jobs in Germany of course meant a lot for my future development as an artist, says Agnetha.
Now - 13 years later - she is one of the superstars in Europe, beloved and praised not in the least in West Germany, where her new LP has received a jubilant reception.
Then along came ABBA and Stikkan Anderson. The definitive international breakthrough. A giant Swedish wave washed across the cosmopolitan pop world - east or west made no difference. ABBA tore down all walls. ABBA's records ended up at the end of the world, in Pockra in Nepal at the foot of the Himalayas. An end station for mountain climbers, on the border of Tibet. If the people who live there find out that you're Swedish when you get there, they'll take out an ABBA record and play Waterloo for you.
In less than 10 years that followed the breakthrough with Waterloo in the Eurovision Song Contest, Agnetha Fältskog managed to:
1)... become world famous
2)... become an artist of the world
3)... get married
4)... give birth to two children, Linda and Christian, today 10 and 5 years old.
5)... get divorced
Now she's sitting here in the music room at Hamngatan 11 and thinking of her new career - the movie. The debut happens in Raskenstam.
Of course it's "the same Agnetha" as uncle "Sigge" says, but it's also an Agnetha Fältskog who has developed a lot as a person and as an artist and who wants to continue to do so. It's also typical for her not to look back on things, instead look ahead.
-I would go crazy if I looked back all the time, she says. You can't do that. Your own development is very important and it's ahead of you.
How did the filming go?
-I've seen the movie and I think I'm pretty good, but I don't think I'm able to make a fair judgment about that. It's difficult for me to say.
Agnetha Fältskog was very nervous when they shot her first scenes. Halvar Björk, who has one of the leading roles, says:
-That girl has talent.
-The most difficult thing was when a scene was to be shot, to get into another person's life for a few minutes and try to act it out. I'm interested in filming now and there are a few new projects that are being discussed, but I can't talk about them.
The director Gunnar Hellström (one of the directors of the popular TV-series Dallas) has a few suggestions.
So from now on Agnetha Fältskog will partly work with ABBA, partly as a solo artist, partly as an actress - three big areas that demand time and energy. How will that work?
-I think that it should work fine and I think that one thing might be positive for the other, she says. Then it'll be fun and when it's fun, it doesn't feel as tough.
We go down to Berzelii Park. A few people approach us and ask for her autograph. Agnetha is kind and obliges.
Do you believe in God, I ask her.
The question surprises her, but she doesn't show it. She replies:
-Yes.... Let me think about it.
Either you believe in God or you don't, I say.
-I believe in God, she says.
Do you believe in an afterlife, I ask.
-No, she says firmly. That is what's so unfair, that we only have one life, she adds after a short pause.
Agnetha Fältskog is a very soft and sensitive person. Sometimes this sensitivity vibrates through the air. It's as if she's feeling her way, like using feelers after she's been asked a question, then reasonably and intellectually processing it before she answers. Just like the King she carefully avoids political questions, where she personally or ABBA may be made use of for various purposes. She is always prepared. She has to be.
Still she has endured many punches in the media. Her private life has been turned inside out, made into something that's unrecognizable to herself and her nearest friends and family. Her patience has to be enormous.
She smiles. For the time being she enjoys cooking Japanese food. She is very interested in and good at cooking food. She doesn't eat any sausage food, but likes salads and vegetarian foods even though she's not a vegetarian.
-My children are like any other children, they like spaghetti with meat sauce the best.
Will you also like Anni-Frid Lyngstad leave Sweden?
-I really enjoy living in Sweden, says Agnetha. I haven't even thought of if I should emigrate or not. I admit that I'm not that fond of our climate during the winter and fall. I prefer warm weather, she says. We'll see what may happen in the future.
After we've said goodbye, she takes the elevator to the sixth floor and I wonder if it's a future movie star going up. Maybe we'll get a hint about this on August 19 when Raskenstam premieres in Stockholm.
Agnetha Fältskog, 5 years old: I'm going to become world famous!