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Norwegian singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad and her band, ABBA, became an overnight sensation in 1974 with their first hit single, "Waterloo."
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She recorded seven solo singles for EMI over the next two years, but none of them achieved much airplay. Lyngstad spent most of her time performing in cabaret shows across Sweden. Then, in 1969, she met and fell in love with Benny Andersson, keyboardist of The Hep Stars, a popular Swedish pop group in the 1960s. Andersson had recently been working with Björn Ulvaeus,
another Swedish pop star who was also happened to date a singer named Agnetha Fältskog. In 1970, the quartet performed together for the first time in a cabaret act called Festfolk. Two years later, they released a single called "People Need Love" that became a minor hit in Sweden. Renaming themselves ABBA, an acronym of the first letters of each of their first names (Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn, Agnetha) and also the name of a popular Swedish canned fish company, the group achieved its big break in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. ABBA entered a new single called "Waterloo," an upbeat, disco-influenced pop track. They won first place, and the contest catapulted "Waterloo" to No. 1 on the UK pop charts and to No. 6 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100. ABBA was on its way to becoming one of world's biggest pop groups.
Over the next seven years, ABBA enjoyed widespread international popularity. Their self-titled 1975 album spawned such hits as "SOS," "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," and "Mamma Mia," all of which became immensely popular in Europe, Australia, and the United States.
ABBA's next album, 1976's Arrival, featured the singles "Money, Money, Money," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," and "Dancing Queen," ABBA's only song to reach No. 1 in the United States.
The Album (1977) featured "Take a Chance On Me," another iconic international hit. Subsequent albums Voulez-Vous (1979), Super Trouper (1979), and The Visitors (1981) were all also successful worldwide. During these years, ABBA toured the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia, and were greeted by throngs of fans everywhere they went.
The two couples that comprised ABBA, Ulvaeus and Fältskog and Andersson and Lyngstad, married in 1971 and 1978 respectively. (Lyngstad had been married previously to Ragnar Fredriksson for much of the 1960s.) But when Lyngstad and Andersson announced their divorce in 1981, their strained relationship started to affect their music. They stopped performing together entirely by the end of 1982.
In the aftermath of ABBA's demise, Lyngstad briefly enjoyed a successful solo career, scoring international hits with her albums Something's Going On (1982) and Shine (1984). However, she has recorded only one album since then, a 1996 Swedish-language album that translates into English as Deep Breaths. In 1992, Lyngstad married German Prince Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen, and they remained married until he passed away in 1999. In recent years, she has campaigned for environmental causes throughout Europe.
Although nearly a quarter-century has passed since Lyngstad and ABBA dominated the international music scene, their music remains immensely popular. The 1999 musical Mamma Mia!, featuring exclusively ABBA music, has sold more than 42 million tickets worldwide. Asked to account for ABBA's enduring popularity, Lyngstad points first and foremost to the timeless quality of the group's music. "The fact that the success has continued is of course incredible and fantastic," she said. "First of all I think it is because of the music. I have understood throughout the years that our music is very efficient music. Second I think it is also because of a lot of great artists who have performed our songs after us. They have brought our songs back to the charts after many years. And of course the Mamma Mia! musical."
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