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ABBA Members Receive Swedish Knighthood Honor

The group received the Order of the Vasa.

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ABBA - Photo: FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images
ABBA - Photo: FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The four members of ABBA have received one of the most prestigious knighthoods in Sweden from the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf.

The Order of the Vasa was handed out for the first time in almost 50 years. Agnetha Faltskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad became “Commander of the First Class” of the order for “very outstanding efforts in Swedish and international music life.”

”The order you get today today is Sweden’s thanks for your exceptional efforts,” the monarch said before handing out orders to “13 exceptional Swedes.”

The group got their start at the 19th Eurovision Song Contest, which appeared jinxed from the outset, but it ultimately proved to be one of the institution’s greatest moments, thanks to a career-defining performance from ABBA.

The 1974 ceremony was initially plagued with setbacks. First, Luxembourg had bailed on the chance to host, claiming it was beyond the state’s modest budgets, leading to a hasty reschedule to Brighton, England. Italy then refused to broadcast the show over concerns about the song “Sì” on the eve of a sensitive election.

There was a problem with host Katie Boyle’s outfit (an almost early example of the now-infamous “wardrobe malfunction”); then the French President died and the clash with his funeral date led to France pulling out at the 11th hour. Even the UK’s performer, Olivia Newton-John, expressed disappointment at the choice of her song entry – the perky “Long Live Love,” picked by a TV ballot ahead of a more obvious ballad.

For Sweden’s entrant, these distractions were the last thing they needed. A lot was riding on ABBA’s Eurovision performance. The previous year, the Swedish quartet’s bid to be picked for the prestigious competition, which they knew could break them in Europe, had been thwarted in the national heats.

“Ring Ring” had come third (while the 1973 Swedish entry ended up fifth in the main competition). 1974 saw them finally selected and, while bookies had initially favored their song “Waterloo” as the year’s winner, the odds were slipping. Come the day itself, April 6, either Britain or Holland were expected to win. Of course, no one had seen ABBA’s performance when those predictions were made.

Listen to the best of ABBA on Apple Music and Spotify.

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