How ABBA's two marriages and divorces split the group apart for nearly 40 years

9 September 2021, 17:12

ABBA
ABBA. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

ABBA were unique for so many reasons. Not only for their one-of-a-kind infectious pop classics, but also for how they functioned as a band made out of two couples.

The foursome consisted of already-married Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who were a couple by the time the group formed in the early 1970s.

But after just under 10 years of world-dominating hits, ABBA called it a day in 1983, a couple of years after both couples had split.

ABBA tried to make it work despite the divorces within the band, but it was doomed to fail with such high stakes, particularly as Bjorn and Agnetha also all had children.

But when were couples married and when did they split?

Agnetha and Bjorn

Agnetha met Björn, then a member of the Hootenanny Singers, in 1968.

Agnetha and Bjorn in 1977
Agnetha and Bjorn in 1977. Picture: Getty

The couple married on July 6, 1971, in the village of Verum, with Benny playing the organ at their wedding. A year later, ABBA was formed.

Agnetha and Bjorn had two children together. Their first child Linda was born in 1973, while son Peter was born in 1977.

After around seven years as a successful band, the stresses of touring led to the couple splitting in 1979, and she later said that she needed therapy after the break-up.

Read more: ABBA's 20 greatest ever songs, ranked

It was reported in 2008 that Agnetha was emotionally "mangled" following the split from Bjorn. Plus, Bjorn was said to have had a new girlfriend within a week, leaving Agnetha in need of counselling.

It was also around this time that ABBA's iconic break-up song 'The Winner Takes It All' was released, with Agnetha singing the moving lyrics: "Tell me does she kiss like I used to kiss you?"

Agnetha and Bjorn with daughter Linda in the late 1970s
Agnetha and Bjorn with daughter Linda in the late 1970s. Picture: Getty

Speaking about the song in 2013, Agnetha said: "Björn wrote it about us after the breakdown of our marriage. The fact he wrote it exactly when we divorced is touching really.

"I didn't mind. It was fantastic to do that song because I could put in such feeling. I didn't mind sharing it with the public. It didn't feel wrong. There is so much in that song.

"It was a mixture of what I felt and what Björn felt but also what Benny and Frida went through."

She wrote in her 1997 book As I Am: “We always told the media that it was a ‘happy’ divorce, which of course was a front. Obviously we all know there are no such things as happy divorces, especially when there are children involved.”

Frida and Benny

After meeting in 1969, the couple were living together by 1971. They did not marry until October 6 1978, during the height of ABBA's fame.

However, after just two years of marriage, they separated in 1980, and were divorced in 1981.

Benny and Frida in 1975
Benny and Frida in 1975. Picture: Getty

According to an 1981 Expressen article, Benny said at the time: "I don't know how other people deal with things like this.

"Frida and I are still friends and I'm still a member of ABBA. We are still good friends, but we are not married anymore."

Their divorce reportedly came quickly, after Benny told Frida that he had met someone else. That person was TV producer Mona Norklit, whom he married later in 1981.

Read more: ABBA's final ever TV performance singing 'Thank You for the Music' is so moving

He continued: "We discussed what was going to remain in the group in spite of all we have been through. We decided to stay together for the sake of the music."

Frida added: "Now that Benny and I have broken up, we are able to work much better together. Our relationship is not as intense as it was, but we are still in contact.

ABBA
ABBA. Picture: Getty

"We have chosen to be completely honest with each other. We have always been very honest about relationships and after long and hard talks we decided to go our separate ways.

"We simply grew out of each other. It came down to our different goals in life. We have always been honest and talked about everything. We talked and talked and finally, we agreed that a divorce would be the best solution.

"There was a lot of tears and a lot of discussions. But there was no way back. Breaking up became a necessity."

It was later said that the band tried returning to the studio in 1982, but realised after both divorces that it was no longer the same.

Reuniting

It wouldn't be until the 2000s that the group were seen in public together at the launch of the Mamma Mia musical and subsequent film.

However, by 2018, all four members began talking seriously about a comeback and recorded a couple of new songs together for the first time in over 35 years.

These two songs eventually turned into a full album, and they will now release Voyage in November 2021. They will also stage a reunion concert of sorts, with specially-crafted virtual 'ABBAtars' performing to fans in London.

Speaking about the band’s comeback, Bjorn told Zane Lowe that things had felt natural when they got into a recording studio again.

He said: “I looked around and I looked into Agnetha’s eyes and Frida’s eyes and there was the same kind of feeling, the warmth, and the friendship and the bonds, between us that, as you suddenly realise no one on earth has experienced this kind of relationship that we have because, thinking about it, it’s true, nobody else has.

“Sadly, people die and they don’t stay on friendly terms for their whole lives, but we have. And I’m so incredibly happy for that.”