Göran Bror Benny Andersson (born in Stockholm, Sweden on December 16, 1946) is a Swedish musician, composer, a former member of the Swedish musical group ABBA (1972-1982), and co-composer of the musicals Chess, Kristina från Duvemåla, and Mamma Mia!. Currently active with his own band Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO!), and co-producing the film version of the musical Mamma Mia!.
Andersson's musical background comes basically from his father and grandfather; they both enjoyed playing the accordion, and at six, Benny got his own. Father Gösta and grandfather Efraim taught him Swedish folk music, traditional music, and the odd schlager. Benny recalls the first records he bought were "Du Bist Musik" by Italian schlager singer Caterina Valente and Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock"; this smörgåsbord of different kinds of music was to influence and follow him through the years.
When Andersson was ten he got his own piano, and taught himself to play. He left school aged 15 and began to perform at youth clubs. This is when he met his first girlfriend Christina Grönvall, with whom he had two children: Peter (born 1963) and Helen (born 1965).
In early 1964, Benny and Christina joined a group with the odd name "Elverkets Spelmanslag" ("The Electricity Board Folk Music Group"), who by no means was a folk music ensemble: the name was a punning reference to their electric instruments. The repertoire was mainly instrumentals, and Benny recalls one of his standout numbers was "Baby Elephant Walk". He also wrote his first pieces of songwriting around this time for this band.
In March 1964, "Elverket Spelmanslag" was up against another band in a talent contest, The Hep Stars. When Benny stepped in as the Hep Stars' keyboardist in October of that year, he knew this was what he wanted to do.
The personal relationships and Andersson and Ulvaeus' songwriting collaboration has led quite naturally to the very close co-operation which the four friends had during the following years. Benny and Björn scored their first hits as songwriters in the spring of 1969: "Ljuva Sextiotal" (a hit with Brita Borg) and "Speleman" (a hit for The Hep Stars). As the two couples began supporting each other during recording sessions, the sound of the girls' voices convinced the songwriters to model their 'group' on the like of MOR acts Blue Mink, Middle of the Road and The Sweet. Thus, ABBA came to life.
'Chess' was staged in London's West End Prince Edward Theatre in May 1986, and ran for almost three years. A Broadway staging in April 1988 received disastrous reviews, and closed after just two months.
In 1985, Andersson produced and released an album with brother and sister Anders and Karin Glenmark, featuring new songs by Andersson/Ulvaeus. The duo named themselves Gemini, and a second album with more music by Björn and Benny was released in April 1987, containing the big hit "Mio My Mio"; also to be found on the soundtrack to the film Mio in the Land of Faraway, for which Andersson co-produced the music.
In 1987, Andersson released his first solo album "Klinga Mina Klockor" ('Chime, My Bells'). All the music was written by and performed by himself on accordion, backed by the Orsa Spelmän (Orsa Folk Musicians) on fiddles. A second solo album followed: November 1989.
In 1990, Andersson scored a Swedish #1 hit with "Lassie", sung by female cabaret group, the Ainbusk Singers, for whom he also wrote the Svensktoppen hits "Älska Mig" and "Drömmarnas Golv". He decided to produce an album with Josefin Nilsson from this quartet, resulting in the 1993 English-language album Shapes, featuring ten new Andersson/Ulvaeus compositions.
From the late 1980s, Andersson had worked on an idea for an epic Swedish language musical based on his affection for traditional folk music, and in October 1995, "Kristina från Duvemåla" premiered in Sweden. The musical was based on The Emigrants novels by Swedish writer Vilhelm Moberg. The musical ran successfully for almost five years, before closing in June 1999. It currently holds in workshops for an English production on Broadway: "Kristina".
Andersson's next project was Mamma Mia!, a musical built around 24 of ABBA's songs, which has become a worldwide box-office blockbuster with versions in several languages currently being played in many countries, including the UK (West End premiere in April 1999, USA (Broadway premiere in 2001) and Sweden (Swedish language premiere in 2005).
For the 2004 semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Istanbul thirty years after ABBA had won the contest in Brighton, Benny appeared briefly in a special comedy video made for the interval act, entitled "Our Last Video". Each of the four members of the group appeared briefly in cameo roles, as did others such as Cher and Rik Mayall. The video was not included in the official DVD release of the Eurovision Contest, but was issued as a separate DVD release. It was billed as the first time the four had worked together since the group spilt. In fact, they each filmed their appearances separately.
A film version of Mamma Mia! premiered on July 18, 2008. In April/May 2007, Andersson worked on the film soundtrack, re-recording the old ABBA songs with musicians from the old ABBA recording sessions.
Andersson currently performs with his own band of 16 musicians, BAO; "Benny Anderssons Orkester" ("Benny Andersson's orchestra"), utilising the vocal talents of fellow swedes Helen Sjöholm (from Kristina from Duvemåla) and Tommy Körberg (of Chess fame), with lyrics to new material sometimes written by his song-writing partner and best-friend of 40 years, Björn Ulvaeus. BAO has released three albums to huge success in Sweden, all containing hit singles. The band is usually performing only during the summer months.
BAO recently achieved a new record in Sweden on the Svensktoppen chart by staying there for 219 weeks with the song Du är min man ("You Are My Man"), sung by Helen Sjöholm. The song was No.1 for 38 weeks between 2004-05.
Andersson composes primarily for his 'band' BAO! and the vocalists Sjöholm and Körberg, but keeps his older material alive through re-visiting it, like the staging of 'Mamma Mia!' and the Swedish version of 'Chess'. For a compilation album of the Glenmark duo Gemini, Andersson had Björn Ulvaeus write new Swedish lyrics for the re-recording of two old songs; Ulvaeus also wrote new English lyrics to older Swedish language songs for opera singer Anne Sofie Von Otter tribute album "I Let The Music Speak". Andersson has written the music to songs recorded by Anders Ekborg ("Han Som Har Vunnit Allt"] and Barbara Dickson ("The Day The Wall Came Tumbling Down"). The song "Kärlekens Tid" -performed by Helen Sjöholm with BAO!- -has also been performed in English by opera baryton Bryn Terfel. English language versions of the songs from Kristina från Duvemåla (which is in process of being translated) is also prémiered.
In 1987, Andersson wrote music and co-produced the soundtrack with Anders Eljas for the film Mio in the Land of Faraway, based on Swedish author Astrid Lindgrens Mio, my Mio. The title song became a huge hit in Sweden for Gemini.
In 2000, Benny wrote the music for fellow Swede (no relation) Roy Andersson's film Songs from the Second Floor (the music later re-recorded (featuring new lyrics) with BAO! with vocals by Helen Sjöholm).
Andersson also worked on the film adaptation of Mamma Mia!
During his post-ABBA career Andersson won four Swedish Grammis awards, and together with Ulvaeus received the "Special International" Ivor Novello award from 'The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters', the Music Export Prize from the Swedish Government, as well as the "Lifetime Achievement" award from the Swedish Music Publishers Association (SMFF). In 2002, Andersson was given an honorary professorship by the Swedish Government for his "ability to create high-class music reaching people around the world".
Andersson was engaged to Lyngstad for about nine years. They married in October 1978 but divorced in 1981. He married Swedish TV presenter Mona Nörklit in November 1981, and had a son, Ludvig (born January 1982). Ludvig has since followed in his father's footsteps in forming his own band, Ella Rouge.