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Monday, March 2, 2009

Agnetha: A few similarities with a singer named Carole

Copyright (original portions only) © 2011-13.

  Could any such similarities really exist? A Swedish pop music singer, and a legendary American singer/songwriter -- eight years older?  This latecomer to Agnetha Fältskog's solo music hadn't given much thought to the possibility.  Recent viewing of PBS' American Masters episode Troubadours: Carole King/James Taylor and The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter  however, helped bring forward a few correlations. (For those at least a little familiar with public aspects/output of the two singers.)

What follows is not intended as a comparison of the two artists nor a promulgation of some type of congruence. I.e., many differences clearly existed. (E.g., see the embedded video at the end...) And I'd guess that the ladies were not acquaintances....
But let's attempt a quick overview of some interesting coincidences or likenesses. (Not necessarily presented in chronological order.):

--- In his detailed story of ABBA, Bright Lights, Dark Shadows, Carl Magnus Palm notes (pages 280-82, 2008 edition) that Carole King, Carly Simon, and Elton John were mentioned as inspirations by Ms. Fältskog while co-writing (with Bosse Carlgren) and producing (with engineer Michael Tretow) her 1975 solo Elva kvinnor i ett hus album. Very few female artists wrote and produced (their) music at the time. (Pls. ref. the point about Carole King/Tapestry that follows, just below.)

The comprehensive Agnetha solo discography and review website "Agnetha's Solo Career" goes further. To borrow an assertion from the site's review of Elva Kvinnor...": "Agnetha was inspired by Carole King's TAPESTRY album-to make a extra effort on this album.." (Link to the Agnetha's page(s) at that site: http://felpin80.tripod.com/ata/annasolo.html#anchor344693 )

We know that Carole King wrote or co-wrote all the songs on 1971's landmark Tapestry album. Per the Troubadours (PBS) examination, she was also involved with its ("minimal") production.

 (Carole King, 2008 (cropped from original picture). Author: Federal Office of Representative Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.)

--- Ms.King and songwriter collaborator/husband Gerry Goffin wrote the chart-topping hit by The Shirelles, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" in 1961. Carole King was around age nineteen at the time (of their songwriting partnership's first success). In smaller market Sweden at an even younger age Ms. Fältskog had #1 songwriting/singing success on her own, topping the Svensktoppen chart with her song "Jag var så kär" (I Was So in Love) in 1968. (Eighteen years old.) 

--- Growing up in middle-class households, both performers learned to play piano at a young age, and dreamed of successful music entertainment careers.

--- Both singers married fellow songwriters/musicians at a fairly young age. Ms. King married Gerry Goffin in 1960 at eighteen. When 21 years old Ms.Fältskog married ABBA singer/songwriter Björn Ulvaeus in 1971. Each marriage produced two children and eventually ended in divorce. BTW: Per a point above, Agnetha (also) collaborated with husband/writer/producer Björn on more than one of her earlier (Swedish) solo albums.

--- Both artists regularly avoided interviews and off-stage attention especially while raising their children -- mainly as single parents. (Ultimately.) As re-visited in the PBS Troubadours program, Ms. King (at around the 59:00 through 1:01:30 potion of the (linked) video) states (to collaborator James Taylor) :  
"I felt like you....I don't want to talk about my music. I want to let my music speak for itself, and I'm going home!" 
 Ms.Fältskog's aversion to interviewing and public life (in general, as an adult) is well documented --though often exaggerated. (Please see this post for more about that (new window).) As one fairly recent example, hear Meryl Streep (et al) touch upon this subject in a 2008 Mamma Mia! interview .(New window, it is about midway through the clip.)

Neither performer much enjoyed touring and being away from their growing family. That is alluded to re Ms. King in the video section noted above. For Ms.Fältskog the general attitude about touring is discussed several times in C.M. Palm's ABBA story, B.L.D.S., incl. on pages 250, 267, 294, etc.

---  As age "thirty-somethings" with maturing children, each of the recording stars relocated to residences removed from city environs. Ms. King to Idaho, and Ms.Fältskog to one of the many islands that are part of Stockholm County. (Some of which is an archipelago. So Agnetha was/is not as far removed (geographically) from urban life.) Both ladies enjoy living in/being part of natural surroundings. (Ex.: Ms. King and daughter speaking of their Idaho residence at about the 1:15:30 mark of the Troubadour program video.An older video example where Agnetha briefly touches upon the subject is contained via this post (new window) here.)

 (One of my own photos, Glacier National Park, 2008)

--- Both singers have -- at least -- dabbled with acting. Carole King guest starred briefly on the TV series Gilmore Girls. In addition to acting for numerous music videos with ABBA, Agnetha portrayed a central character in a Swedish feature film, Raskenstam in 1983.

--- As far as can be readily determined, by reputation, neither of these performers (regularly) indulged to excess with drugs or alcohol during their careers. Unlike a number of their peers or cohorts from the time period in popular music.(Ref. Ms. King, via the Troubadours program cited above.) It remains a bit difficult for me to reach a definitive conclusion about this subject covering Ms.King's entire adult life, but Agnetha has been quite clear at times. In the 1970s-80s, Ms.Fältskog was attributed in at least one published interview re her concerns over young people and drug abuse, and once stated (attributed, at the time) that: "I reject drugs".

--- A subjective observation: The singers have each been described by knowledgeable listeners/musicians as possessing representative or archetypical female singing voices.  Ex.: Drummer Russ Kunkel re Carole King singing on Tapestry: "...like the voice of every woman..." (Around the 45:20 mark of the Troubadours program.)

I'm sure that there may be a couple of additional similarities that I may have missed. Though taking very different music career paths, both singers seemingly have a few things in common -- if by coincidence. Appealing singing voices and songwriting ability (especially Ms. King; her paramount career success (overall)) are two of the most prominent (and enjoyable) similarities.

P.S. Oh...She's not too "bad" at THIS too, though...Wonderful performance, all around. (And get yourself UP on that piano...!)

(YT link:) www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVF8gYhBir0&fmt=18 

Polite comments and corrections to this post are welcome. If I (we) think of any more items I will append them below.

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 FYI: This entry is backdated to better position within the order of posts here. It's actual creation date is December, 2011.

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