Thank you for the music: Abba members get Swedish knighthoods

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Abba have received one of the most prestigious Swedish knighthoods after being awarded an order of chivalry last handed out almost 50 years ago.

The pop legends were recognised by King Carl XVI Gustaf on Friday for their cultural impact, which has taken Swedish pop music to a huge global audience.

The group – Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus – made a rare public appearance together in Stockholm where they were given the Royal Order of Vasa for “outstanding efforts in Swedish and international music”.

Sweden stopped awarding royal orders to its citizens in 1975, but continued to award royal orders to foreigners. However, the country’s parliament reinstated the practice in 2022, and Friday’s ceremony marked the first time the orders had been awarded to Swedes in half a century.

The band, who went through a pair of divorces after coupling up, reunited to receive their honours. Agnetha was married to Björn, and Benny to Anni-Frid. Both couples split at the height of their fame, the former pair in 1980 and the latter a year later.

Abba are still one of the biggest pop acts in the world, even though they have not played live since appearing on Noel Edmonds’ The Late, Late Breakfast Show on the BBC in 1982.

After the split, Fältskog, who was already a star in Sweden before she joined the band, went on to have a successful solo career, but the group’s original hits have never truly faded, becoming pop culture staples for decades.

They have sold more than 400m albums and singles and were the first Swedes to clinch a Eurovision victory, while digital versions of the group, known as “Abbatars”, are playing to sold-out crowds in London as part of Abba Voyage.

The show, which plays in a purpose-built venue in east London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, took seven years and $175m to develop, with more than 1 million people having bought tickets since its launch.

Abba’s popularity was rekindled by the Mamma Mia! musical and subsequent film adaptation, which introduced the group’s music to new generations.

The Abba name is still a huge draw and in January this year Andersson and Ulvaeus shared in a dividend of nearly £1m after a surge in profits at the production company behind the Mamma Mia! stage musical and film adaptations.

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Andersson, Lyngstad and Ulvaeus attended the first anniversary of the Abba Voyage show in east London but quickly dismissed rumours of a reunion for this year’s Eurovision, which marked 50 years since their breakout win in 1974 with Waterloo.

The song was the start of a run of hits that dominated the mid to late 70s and stretched into the early 1980s.

There was often a melancholy edge to their tracks but the band still became huge disco floor fillers with hits such as Dancing Queen, Take A Chance On Me and Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), making the foursome one of Sweden’s biggest ever cultural exports.

In total, 13 Swedes were honoured at the ceremony at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, including two Nobel prize winners: the geneticist Svante Pääbo and the French-Swedish physicist Anne L’Huillier.


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