Modest, quiet and self-critical – these are some characteristics that friends and journalists use to describe Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
She herself claims: “In my case, there are a lot of highs and lows. I am a very serious person and I carry an inherent soul pain along with me, that is very hard for me to overcome. I thought it would get better with age. But it’s exactly the opposite. It’s only getting worse...”
Anni-Frid and Benny have been living together since 1970 and if there’s one thing they have in common, then it’s this: in both cases, their careers have led them to leave their families and children. But the latter is ancient history. These days, they are on the best of terms with their children. Anni-Frid’s Hans and Lise-Lotte and Benny’s Peter and Helen spend their summer holiday together on the ABBA island.
For Anni-Frid, Benny is the anchor of her life. She herself says: “He helps me when I’m feeling down. I easily get worked up about trivialities. Benny is completely different in that respect. He doesn’t take things too seriously.”
As the only ABBA member, Anni-Frid Lyngstad was not born in Sweden. She was born on November 15, 1945 in Narvik, Norway. Her father was a German occupying officer, who left Norway after World War II. For decades, Anni-Frid didn’t hear from him at all.
When Anni-Frid was only eighteen months old, her mother died. Not long after that, her grandmother moved to Sweden together with the little girl. In Torshälla, a small town in the middle of Sweden, both of them found their home base. The grandmother earned a living for herself and the little girl as a seamstress.
Music became part of Anni-Frid’s life at a very young age. Her first performance in public as a singer took place when she was only eleven years old, when she took part in a Red Cross event. When she was thirteen years old, she was already a singer in a band that was dedicated to swing music. Later on, she worked as a lead singer with Bengt Sandlung’s Big Band in Eskilstuna. During this time, she also met her future husband and father of her two children. His name was Ragnar Fredriksson, he worked as a carpet dealer and played music in his spare time.
“At the time, I was crazy about jazz music,” Anni-Frid remembers. “With the big band, I sang old jazz ballads and Glenn Miller compositions. It wasn’t until I met Benny that I started to get interested in other kinds of music as well.”
Anni-Frid had her first big succes as a singer in 1967. At a talent competition in Stockholm, she finished in first place. When the host asked the happy but exhausted winner: “What are you going to do this evening,” Anni-Frid answered: “Drive back to Eskilstuna and get some sleep.”
Perhaps Anni-Frid would have become a plain housewife and mother, if Sweden hadn’t decided to change from left-hand to right-hand driving. To make the new traffic rules as well-known as possible, the traffic planners used all available mass media. And when the day of the traffic conversion arrived on September 3, 1967, the Swedish population witnessed the birth of a new pop star in the traffic gala broadcast – Anni-Frid. She sang her colleagues into the ground. She had finally achieved her big breakthrough. The record companies were tripping over each other to sign a deal with Anni-Frid. Anni-Frid decided to sign with EMI, that released nine singles and one album over the following years. In the next few months, Anni-Frid worked harder and harder on her career. Performances in folk parks and nightclubs – there was hardly an hour of spare time for Anni-Frid. No wonder that her marriage came to an end during all this hustle and stress. Anni-Frid divorced her husband in mutual understanding. The children stayed with their father in Eskilstuna. Anni-Frid moved to Stockholm.
“The first few months were horrible,” she remembers. “I was longing for my children so badly. The only thing I did was ponder, I started to regret my decision. I hated my career, that had become too big for me.”
But all of this changed when she met Benny. They met for the first time in Malmö. “It was only a short meeting,” Anni-Frid remembers. “The next time, we met at a radio broadcast. We both took part in a forum discussion. From then on, we started to meet regularly.”
Benny wasn’t only a lucky strike in Anni-Frid’s personal life, but it was the beginning of ABBA as well.
Indeed, there was a happy end for Anni-Frid and her father too, whom she presumed to be dead for a long time. After decades, Anni-Frid was finally able to take the pastry cook Alfred Haase from Karlsruhe in her arms. Anni-Frid: “My father is a wonderful man. It’s simply indescribably beautiful.”
But nothing actually changed in Anni-Frid’s life. Anni-Frid: “But it’s good to know that people are able to find each other after such a long time and get along immediately.”