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ABBA: a Swedish quartet, was one of the most commercially successful singing groups in popular music during the 1970's. The group consisted of Agnetha Faltskog, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad. Andersson played the keyboards, and Ulvaeus the guitar. All four sang. The name ABBA, often written with the first B backward, was taken from the first letter of the first name of each member. Having established separate careers within Swedish pop they started working together in 1970, from 1972 under the name Björn, Benny, Agnetha och Anni-Frid. The acronym ABBA was adopted in 1973. Their victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, with Waterloo, launched the most successful international career to emerge from that context. During the period 1974–82 the group attained global popularity with songs such as Mama Mia (1975), Fernando (1976), Dancing Queen (1976), The Name of the Game (1977), Take a chance on me (1978) and Super Trouper (1980), all of which were number one hits in the UK, and albums such as Waterloo (1974), ABBA (1975), Arrival (1976), The Album (1977), Voulez-Vous (1979) and The Visitors (1981). In terms of chart performance, Abba was the world's most successful pop group in the 1970s; by 1983 their cumulative record sales were estimated at 180 million units.
ABBA's music, most of which was written by Andersson and Ulvaeus with some lyrics by their manager Stig Anderson, features carefully designed, eclectic syntheses of 1970s pop and dance music with European and Latin American popular styles, most notably in stylistic pastiches such as the 'Italian' Andante andante, the 'Greek' I have a dream or the 'Andean' Fernando. Its prominent characteristics are sensuous combinations of diatonic melody and tonal harmony, often involving harmonic motion alternating between two or three chords. A further important factor contributing to ABBA's sound is the meticulously crafted production. The engineer Michael B. Tretow created dense but transparent combinations of multi-tracked vocals with skilfully balanced backings setting new production standards for mainstream pop. In addition to the music, the group’s success was also facilitated by their pioneering use of visual media for promotion, as exemplified by several video clips for single songs and the concert film ABBA: the Movie (1977).
ABBA's songs included "Waterloo" (1974); "S.O.S.," "Mamma Mia," and "Fernando" (all 1975); "Dancing Queen," "Money, Money, Money," and "Knowing Me Knowing You" (all 1976); "The Name of the Game" and "Take a Chance on Me" (both 1977); and "The Winner Takes It All" and "Super Trouper" (both 1980). The songs were characterized by catchy melodies and rich orchestrations. Although the group was based in Sweden, they recorded their songs in English.
Ulvaeus was born on April 25, 1945, in Goteborg, Sweden. Lyngstad was born on Nov. 15, 1945, near Narvik, Norway. Andersson was born on Dec. 16, 1946, in Stockholm, Sweden. Faltskog was born on April 5, 1950, in Jonkoping, Sweden. All four were established pop music performers before they first performed in 1970 as Festfolk. They began performing together regularly in 1972 and took the name ABBA in 1973. The group gained European-wide fame in 1974 by winning the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual European music competition, with their performance of "Waterloo." Ulvaeus and Faltskog were married from 1971 to 1979. Andersson and Lyngstad were married from 1978 to 1981. Both marriages ended in divorce.
ABBA disbanded in 1982, after which the members have pursued separate careers with varying degrees of success. Andersson and Ulvaeus co-wrote the stage musical Chess (1986) with British lyricist Tim Rice, Kristina från Duvemåla (1995), based on Vilhelm Moberg's tetralogy of novels about 19th-century Swedish emigrants to the USA, and Mamma Mia (2000). It included the hit song "One Night in Bangkok." The music of ABBA gained a new audience with the international popularity of the musical Mamma Mia! (1999), which featured 22 of the group's songs. A popular film version of the musical was released in 2008. ABBA was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus started with The Hootenanny Singers. They teamed with Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog in 1970 in cabaret act Festfolk ("party people"). A 1972 single, People Need Love, was credited to “Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid.” This was reduced to their first initials. ABBA was also a Swedish canned fish company, which agreed to lend its name.
Agnetha was known as Anna, and Anni-Frid as Anni (many ABBA releases drop the Swedish characters). ABBA was an acronym, palindrome and - with the first 'B' backwards - a registered trade mark.
This Eurovision-winning act spawned many tribute bands after they broke up in 1982. Some have been touring for more than 20 years. They include Abba Dabba Doo, ABBALANCHE, Abbasolutely, Björn Again, and Gabba.
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