ABBA: When Lasse Wellander met Björn & Benny
Members of the iconic supergroup ABBA have paid tribute to their guitarist Lasse Wellander, who has lost his battle against cancer at the age of 70. The talented Swedish musician played on the band’s hit albums and toured with them from 1975 until 1980. In a joint statement, the band members described him as a “dear friend, a fun guy and a superb guitarist”.
He first worked with ABBA on a recording session in October 1974 and went on to become an integral part of the group.
Wellander was first introduced to the male members of ABBA, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, in the early ’70s. One of Sweden’s most sought-after session musicians, he accompanied them on multiple tours and became a regular band member for the Eurovision winners.
He had reunited with his former bandmates in 2021 to play on the pop icons’ number one comeback album, Voyage. At the time, he said in press interviews it “felt like the old days” when he was recording his guitar tracks.
When Lasse Wellander met Björn and Benny in 1974, it was a highlight of the talented guitarist’s long and respected career that began in the 1960s.
Born in June 1952 in the village of Skrikarhyttan, Wellander learned to play guitar as a youngster in the early ’60s. He honed his skills through joining local bands in his youth, the most famous of which was Blues Quality, a group who hailed from Örebro.
After Blues Quality split up, some of the members, including Wellander, formed a new group called Nature. They became the backing band for the famous Swedish recording artist Ted Gärdestad, accompanying him on his summer tours in 1973 and 1974.
Through working and touring with Gärdestad, the guitarist discovered the two ABBA stars admired his work. Gärdestad introduced him to Björn and Benny and this was the start of a new chapter in their life.
ABBA had won the Eurovision Song Contest in April 1974 with their iconic hit, Waterloo, a subsequent best-seller that made it to number one all over the world, launching their career. They snapped Wellander up as their guitarist soon after meeting him.
Wellander was invited to record tracks in the studio with ABBA in October 1974, after meeting female vocalists Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad too. He played guitar on tracks such as Crazy World and Intermezzo No 1. He soon became the main guitarist on ABBA’s albums, touring with them four times between 1975 and 1980.
As well as respecting his musical skills, the band members formed a close friendship with him. They spoke of the “importance of his creative input” in the recording studio and his “rock solid guitar work” on live tours, describing his contribution as “immense”.
When ABBA sadly disbanded in December 1982, Wellander continued to work with them as individuals, playing on Fältskog’s solo albums, Wrap Your Arms Around Me in 1983 and My Colouring Book in 2004.
He also played on the musical Chess concept album recorded by Ulvaeus and Tim Rice in 2006. Later, he played on the soundtrack to Mamma Mia The Movie in 2008 and its sequel, Mamma Mia Here We Go Again, in 2018.
ABBA Voyage album
His final appearance with ABBA was on the album Voyage, released in 2021. The long-anticipated band reunion delighted Wellander, who said it was “always a bit special” to work with the Swedish legends. He said the girls’ voices were “as great as ever” and added the only difference from the ’70s sessions was the modern trend for “pre-production” – something that didn’t happen 40 years ago.
In recent years, Wellander had been recording and producing new music under his own name. His final three singles Overdrive, Merry-Go-Round and Oh Come, All Ye Faithful were released in 2022.
He was presented with the Royal Swedish Academy of Music’s prestigious Albin Hagström Memorial Award in 2005 and the Swedish Musicians’ Union’s special prize, the Studioräven Award, in 2018.
Wellander died on Good Friday, surrounded by his family, who described him as a “wonderful husband, father, brother, uncle and grandfather”. His former bandmates joined in the tributes, adding that he was a “brilliant man who played an integral role in the ABBA story”, saying, “He will be deeply missed and never forgotten.”
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