Lill-Babs asked for my autograph

Published April 04, 2018

The death of singer Barbro "Lill-Babs" Svensson yesterday is front-page news in Sweden. She made her first record as a 16-year-old back in 1954 and has never quite been out of the spotlight since then: that's 64 years. Sweden's biggest daily, Dagens Nyheter, devoted their entire culture section to her passing today.

Swedish showbusiness being as small as it is, there are many connections between her and ABBA, the most prominent one of course being her 1971 hit single 'Välkommen till världen' ("Welcome To The World"), which was written by Björn and Benny, and also featured backing vocals by all four future ABBA members. ABBA manager Stig Anderson wrote her 1959 mega-hit, 'Är du kär i mig ännu, Klas-Göran’ ("Are You Still In Love With Me, Klas-Göran"), which also laid the foundation for his own music business empire.

I only met Lill-Babs once, at the release party for Ingmarie Halling's and my book ABBA - The Backstage Stories, which was held at ABBA The Museum in 2014. We ended up sitting fairly close to each other at the bar and although this was mainly Ingmarie's book and party, which was exactly how it should be, Lill-Babs asked me about my involvement. I had heard this about her: that she was good at "seeing" people and making them feel like they matter.

I told her that we had put 'Välkommen till världen' as a bonus track on Ring Ring Deluxe Edition, which made her throw back her head and roar with laughter; she was really amused by that. She also asked me to sign her copy of the book: I don't know how many international stars would have bothered asking a "lowly" author for his or her autograph, but she's certainly the most famous person to specifically ask me to sign something for her.

I can't quite imagine what it must be like being a star, satisfying the public's dual expectations of you being somehow different and more special than ordinary people, and at the same time being just like everybody else - perhaps especially in Sweden (and the other Nordic countries), where big-headed acts seldom get the love of the public. Lill-Babs seemed to master this balancing act better than most people in her position.