The Swedish pop group ABBA dominated the charts in the 1970s, releasing eight studio albums in that time. Their upbeat, dance-friendly songs hit at the height of the disco era, turning the group into a global phenomenon. From dance anthems to heartbreak ballads, ABBA offered a little something for everyone, never holding back the emotion that makes their music so relatable. As U2 singer Bono said in 1992: “I think ABBA have a pure joy to their music — and that's what makes them extraordinary.”
But while ABBA is now celebrated as one of the most successful pop groups in history, the musicians had a winding road to stardom. Keyboardist Benny Andersson and guitarist Björn Ulvaeus — who also wrote the band’s songs — were the first to meet and collaborate musically. In 1969, they met their musical and romantic matches in vocalists Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. After several middling releases, the foursome’s song “Ring Ring” qualified in the Swedish round of the legendary Eurovision competition, but got no further. Undeterred, the band returned to Eurovision the following year with “Waterloo.” This time, they won outright — and the rest, as they say, is history.
ABBA’s music was true to life, in all its ups and downs: Their 1980 hit “The Winner Takes It All” was written about Ulvaeus and Fältskog’s divorce that year. A year later, Andersson and Lyngstad also divorced, and the strain led the band to finally split in 1982. But that wasn’t the end of ABBA — not really. Their music has lived on in soundtracks for movies such as Muriel’s Wedding (1995) and Johnny English (2003), and even inspired the smash jukebox musical Mamma Mia!, which opened on Broadway in 1999 and hit the big screen in 2008. And to the delight of insatiable fans, in November 2021 the band put out their first new album in 40 years, "Voyage," which topped the charts within weeks of its release, going platinum across Europe.
In honor of their return, we’ve gathered some of ABBA’s most poignant lyrics, on everything from living life fully to getting through tough times — things that, through their music, the four have helped countless other people to do.
On embracing life
Take it now or leave it / Now is all we get / Nothing promised, no regrets
— "Voulez Vous" (1979)
Like the sunrise in the morning / Life is dawning, move on / How I treasure every minute / Being part of, being in it
— "Move On" (1977)
Tonight's a night we borrow / Let's make it a memory, a night of our own
— “Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)” (1974)
I wonder, it scares me / But who the hell am I if I don't even try?
— "I Wonder [Departure]" (1977)
If you need me, let me know / Gonna be around / If you got no place to go when you’re feeling down
— "Take a Chance on Me" (1977)
You and I can share the silence / Finding comfort together / The way old friends do
— "The Way Old Friends Do" (1980)
People need love to make a good living / People need faith in a helping hand
— "People Need Love" (1972)
May we all have a vision now and then / Of a world where every neighbor is a friend
— "Happy New Year" (1980)
On the ups and downs of love
Our love is a precious thing / Worth the pain and the suffering / And it's never too late for changing
— "One Man, One Woman" (1977)
You and I know / How the heartaches come and they go… You'll be dancing once again / And the pain will end / You will have no time for grieving
— "Chiquitita" (1979)
Making somebody happy is a question of give and take… Every feeling you're showing / Is a boomerang you're throwing
— "Bang-a-Boomerang" (1975)
On the power of music
I let the music speak… Leading me all the way, into a place / Where beauty will defeat the darkest day
— "I Let the Music Speak" (1981)
I ask in all honesty / What would life be? / Without a song or a dance, what are we?
— "Thank You for the Music" (1977)
I’m your music / I’m your song / Play me time and time again and make me strong
— "Andante, Andante" (1980)
Photo credit: MARKA/ Alamy Stock Photo