Anna-Lena Löfgren was one of Sweden’s most popular singers during the 1960s and 1970s. She was also very popular in Germany.
Anna-Lena Löfgren was born in Enskede in 1944. She had a brother who was three years her senior and 16 years later her parents had a second son. On certain occasions her mother would sing and sometimes play a bit of piano. Anna-Lena Löfgren taught herself the basics of playing the accordion and the guitar. When she was five (some say four) years old she made her public debut on Sven Jerring’s – ‘Uncle Sven’ – radio show called “Barnens brevlåda”. Anna-Lena Löfgren’s brother Jan-Eric Löfgren told the writer of this article that she performed the ballad “God natt små kamrater och tack för idag”. Sven Jerring pretended to fall asleep during the live transmission causing the young Anna-Lena Löfgren to gently prod him, saying “Get up!”. When she was seven years old Anna-Lena Löfgren started to sing in the radio’s girls’ choir, of which she remained a member for four years.
Anna-Lena Löfgren’s beautiful, broad-ranging singing voice developed during her childhood and led to several successes in various singing competitions when she was a teenager. She beat Sylvia Vrethammer in the Bromma-Spånga pageant. Winning the Nalens Coca-Cola pageant, held in 1960, proved decisive for her future career. On that occasion the two owners of the Metronome record company, Anders Burman and Börje Ekstedt, were present. According to Jan-Eric Löfgren they immediately signed a record contract with the pageant winner. (Stora Schlagerboken, however, recounts that this happened following her victory at the “Ungdom med ton” competition.) Burman wanted his protégé to become more practised and thus placed her in Leif Kronlund’s band, in which she spent a few years as a vocalist whilst completing her high school education.
Anna-Lena Löfgren released her first record in October 1961, an EP (and a single) on which "Iwan Iwanowitsch" was the first track of the A-side. The record also included "Regniga Natt", with Swedish text written by Bo Göran Edling. She had heard the song in the summer of 1961 when she was competing in a talent show in Kornsjöstrand near Örnsköldsvik – she won the competition – and at which she met the Norwegian Harald Pettersen, who had composed the song and enjoyed success with it in Norway. Neither of Anna-Lena Löfgren’s first two records generated much interest. Her second record, called Gå tillbaks igen, was released in the spring of 1962.
It was by appearing on TV that Anna-Lena Löfgren made her public breakthrough. The first time she gained notoriety was when she appeared on Putte Wickman’s programme Onsdagsträff in November 1961. A later, more important, appearance was her performance of “Regniga Natt” on a brand-new TV-programme called Hylands hörna in early November 1962. The song became an instant hit leading the record company to immediately release a new recording of the song as an EP. Within a few weeks it attained the top spot on Svensktoppen (Swedish charts). It remained in the charts for 21 weeks, 8 of which were at the number 1 spot. The record sold a total of 100,000 copies, thus becoming a so-called gold record. The following summer Anna-Lena Löfgren went on a three-month tour, for which Jan-Eric Löfgren served as tour-manager and according to whom his sister performed at 115 public parks.
“Regniga Natt” was just the beginning of a long-lasting successful musical career. Proof of Anna-Lena Löfgren’s popularity lies in the great number of her songs which charted in Svensktoppen. Of a total of 40 songs, 8 charted at number 1 at some point. Although many of them only charted briefly, some of them became so-called long-running hits at respectable chart positions. 14 of her songs charted for 10 weeks or more. Her longest-lasting hit ever was in 1963 with “Se mig i ögonen älskling”, originally a German tune for which Gösta Rybrant supplied a Swedish text. It spent 29 weeks in Svensktoppen, 5 of which were at the number 1 position. Anna-Lena Löfgren released another long-lasting hit in 1966 called “Var barmhärtig”. It was originally an American hit called “Ivy Rose”, best
known as a Perry Como hit. Anna-Lena Löfgren’s version spent 11 weeks in Svensktoppen, 4 of which were at number 1. In the meantime she had married the musician Karl Lundborg in 1965. Their marriage lasted four years.
1967 was Anna-Lena Löfgren’s best year for chart success. In April she entered the charts with the classic French melody “Plaisir d’amour”. Many other artists had covered this tune, including Joan Baez and Marianne Faithful. Anna-Lena Löfgren’s version only spent six weeks in Svensktoppen, but two of these were in top position. The week after that tune fell out of the charts Anna-Lena Löfgren returned with a song called “Blame it on the Bossa Nova”, which had been an international hit for Eydie Gormé in 1963. Stikkan Anderson had written the Swedish text and the song remained in Svensktoppen for 11 weeks, peaking at number 3. Anna-Lena Löfgren again entered the charts in December that year with her song “Lyckliga gatan”. Britt Lindeborg provided the Swedish words for this Italian melody, inspired, according to her words printed in Lyckliga Gatan, du finns inte mer…, by her childhood in Hagalund. Anders Burman was responsible for the song’s arrangement. This song was a massive hit accompanying Anna-Lena Löfgren throughout her career, at every performance. It spent 14 weeks in Svensktoppen, 9 of which were at numer 1. It also achieved the number 1 spot in the Kvällstoppen chart. More than 150,000 copies of the record were sold, thus generating Anna-Lena Löfgren’s second gold-record. She had an even bigger hit with the song in Norway where it attained platinum-record status. If Anna-Lena Löfgren’s two other hits from 1967 are added into the mix this must surely be seen as her most successful year. And her hits continued. She had long-running hits in Svenskoppen during both 1968 and 1969: the 1968 tune was “Sommaren det hände”, an Italian song for which Bo Göran Edling provided the Swedish text, which spent 11 weeks in the charts. The 1969 tune “Minns du de'” spent just one week less in the chart, several of these in the number three slot. In an interview from 2005, reprinted in Stora Schlagerboken Anna-Lena Löfgren recounts how the audience favourite at her concerts was “Kärlek på lasarett”. Remarkably enough, however, it only spent one week in Svensktoppen in 1963. “Vad är det för väder vi fått” from 1965, which was often played on various radio programmes, similarly and surprisingly also only charted briefly.
Svensktoppen did not cater for spiritual music and thus none of the tracks from Anna-Lena Löfgren's and Artur Erikson’s 1969 hit record charted. It was not until 1973 that another long-lasting hit, “Kom morgon”, charted. This was an Israeli tune called “Ey sham” for which Britt Lindeborg supplied the Swedish text. It spent 16 weeks in Svensktoppen, peaking at number 3. In 1974 the radio management introduced new rules for Svensktoppen which had major impacts on the charts. One of these – which lasted until 1982 – stated that any given recording was only allowed to spend 10 weeks (in practise often 11) in the charts. Another rule – valid until mid-1978 – stated that both the music and the text of charting songs had to be written by Swedish citizens. Both of these rules impacted on Anna-Lena Löfgren’s future appearances in Svensktoppen until 1980. She was forced off the charts in 1974 – a year when four of her songs made it into Svensktoppen, including two at number one – after the song “Säg god morgon”, written by Torgny Söderberg, charted for eleven weeks. The same thing happened with “En stilla sång”, by Lasse Holm and Ola Magnell, and with “Nu är jag fri”, by Gösta Linderholm. The same pattern occurred in 1975 with the tune “Tomma löften, tomma ord”, for which the duo of Lars E. Carlsson and Hans Sidén wrote the words and music. Anna-Lena Löfgren performed it together with Ove Janson. Similarly, the 1976 tune “Säg blir det så här när vi blir gamla”, composed by Torgny Söderberg, was forced off the charts after eleven weeks. The same fate befell Anna-Lena Löfgren’s 1980 song “Morgon varför väcker du upp oss”, written by Lars E. Carlsson. When the ban on songs with foreign origins was lifted in 1979 Anna-Lena Löfgren, along with Pierre Isacsson and Mats Rådberg, recorded “Hallelujah” the same year. This was the winning
Israeli entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. The song spent three weeks in Svensktoppen, one week of which was at the number one position.
In 1995 Anna-Lena Löfgren made a final return to the charts after a 15-year hiatus. The song was “Välkommen till Pireus” and was written by her friend and musical partner Christer Peters, who was from Blekinge. She herself was responsible for most of the words. The song spent seven weeks in the charts, peaking at number three, and appears on her album entitled På begäran, which also includes many of her hits from the 1970s.
For a few years in the early 1960s Anna-Lena Löfgren sang together with Ann-Louise Hanson and Siw Malmkvist. They were good friends and had all signed with the Metronome record company. Anders Burman, the company director, thought they should form a group, a trio called Snopporna. As such they released four records in Sweden, all of which aimed for Svensktoppen. Only one of these, “Vår runda jord”, actually entered the charts in October 1964, remaining there for two weeks. In 1963 they released a single in German, calling themselves SWE-star, but it never entered the top section of the charts.
Just like Siw Malmkvist and Barbro “Lill-Babs” Svensson, Anna-Lena Löfgren focused on a career in Germany. From 1962–1973 she released a total of 20 German-language singles, and she made many visits to Germany, undertaking many radio and TV appearances there. Initially her singles did not generate a lot of interest, but her fourth called “Morgen hast du keine Sorgen”, from 1964 (the original was “För sent ska syndar’n vakna” sung by Siw Malmkvist) – was a major hit. Anna-Lena Löfgren’s song “Dein Hertz, das muss aus Gold sein” (based on her own recording of “Hjärtat på rätta stället”) was also a major hit and spent 20 weeks in the charts. Her next records sold well, especially “Immer am Sonntag”, which is the German version of “Lyckliga gatan”. In 1968 Anna-Lena Löfgren’s song “Alle Blumen wollen blühen” came fourth in the German Schlager-Wettbewerb TV-competition, out of twelve entries – the competition winner was in fact Siw Malmkvist. In 1969 Anna-Lena Löfgren’s song “Rot ist die Liebe” appeared in the ZDF charts. The Funny Artists in Deutschland record company released a CD-single by Anna-Lena Löfgren in 2001 on which the A-side was a new song called “Irgendwann nimmt das Glück dich in den Arm”. She released three German LPs/CDs through the years. The first LP, from 1968, was simply entitled “Anna-Lena”, and it was followed up in 1970 by the “Festliche Weinacht” Christmas album. As late as 1998 Anna-Lena Löfgren released a CD with the Bear Family label using the name of her 1967 song “Dein Hertz…” as its title. Her final CD-single, “Ich dich auch”, released the very same day that she died, is a fitting and clear example of Anna-Lena Löfgren’s popularity in Germany.
Anna-Lena Löfgren competed twice in the Melodifestival (annual Swedish music competition), in 1963 and 1968. The panel of experts who judged the 12 submissions in 1963 ranked “En gång i Stockholm” in first place. Anna-Lena Löfgren’s song, called “Säg varför” and written by Ulf Källkvist, remained unranked. In 1968 the TV-management selected ten artists to compete against each other and following the votes of eleven jury groups “Det börjar verka kärlek banne mig”, sung by Claes-Göran Hederström, was declared the winner. Anna-Lena Löfgren’s song, called “Jag vill tro”, written by Britt Lindeborg, earned 5 points and achieved sixth place.
In 1969 Anna-Lena Löfgren began to work with pastor Artur Erikson of Svenska Missionsförbundet (the Mission covenant church of Sweden), who was also a singer. At the end of the year they recorded an LP called Jul, jul, strålande jul, which became a veritable success and achieved diamond-record sales numbers, namely selling 100,000 copies. The following year they collaborated
on another record, called Sånger vid brasan. In 1975 they released a third album named after one of the songs it contained, Ovan där. They also toured together several times. Further, Anna-Lena Löfgren also toured with Jan Sparring. He was a member of the Pentecostal movement who, from the late 1960s onwards, was one of the most popular spiritual singers in Sweden. Church and spiritual music also formed a part of Anna-Lena Löfgren’s work with Christer Peters during the 1980s and 1990s. Her 1972 LP called Nu tändas tusen juleljus only contained spiritual songs, as did her 1985 LP called Sånger från hjärtat.
Anna-Lena Löfgren released almost 15 LPs in Sweden, some of which were ‘best of’ albums which included earlier singles and EPs. In 1977 she sang with the Stockholm police choir and in 1989 she sang with the Ytterlännäs church choir from Ådalen. Her 1985 Skattkisten LP was slightly different given that she performed with the Norwegian top-of-the-pops singer Ray Adams and that the album comprised largely so-called earworms in modern arrangements. It is, however, surprising that she never recorded an album of Jules Sylvain songs despite the fact that he supported her 1973 tour.
Anna-Lena Löfgren, who chose not to have children, was very active on behalf of vulnerable children, for whom she organised a series of benefit concerts. She and her second husband, the musician Benny Löf, were responsible for sending various supplies to children in Polish orphanages.
Anna-Lena Löfgren appeared to tour tirelessly far more than most of her peers. She sometimes undertook several hundred appearances within a given year, for several years at a time. The polio she suffered from in her youth caused her to use a walking stick, and eventually led her to perform in a seated position. Thus, for example, for three years after the turn of the millennium she undertook a project called “Kultur i vården” which entailed performing at hospitals, care homes, service homes, and homes for the elderly. She was wheelchair-bound from 2003 onwards. Although she reduced her work duties she continued holding general sing-song evenings and various simpler events. In 2005 her physical debility finally led her to stop public performances. During her final years of life she began to write her memoires with the help of her colleague Christer Peters. They had not quite completed this project when, in May 2010, Anna-Lena Löfgren died at her Lyckliga Gatan home where she lived for many years.