Reviled by rock purists but admired by observers as diverse as Nelson Mandela and the late Kurt Cobain, Abba was a 1970s Swedish pop group that achieved unprecedented worldwide success. The group specialized in light love songs with instantly memorable musical “hooks” and cultivated a cheery pop style that rarely permitted the exploration of serious themes. Some of Abba’s music was aimed at dancers, and when popular taste shifted toward the pulsing dance music called disco at the end of the decade, it was easy for the group to exploit the trend. To an observer around 1980, Abba’s recordings might have seemed dubious candidates for any listing of 1970s music likely to endure. The group broke up in 1983.
Yet by the early 1990s a full-scale Abba revival was underway. Village Voice critic Barry Walters pointed out that “[like] the Doors, ABBA has nearly as many greatest hits packages as it has regular albums”; each repackaging of the group’s output attracted new fans. Abba’s success proved to be more than temporary,
Members include Benny Andersson (born December 16, 1946, in Stockholm, Sweden); Agnetha Fältskog (born April 5,1950, in Jankoping, Sweden); Anni-Frid Lyngstad (born November 15, 1945, in Narvik, Norway); Björn Ulvaeus (born April 15, 1945, in Gothenburg, Sweden). Ulvaeus and Fäaltskog married, 1972–78; had three children. Andersson and Lyngstad married, 1978 (divorced).
Group formed in Stockholm, 1972; released internationally successful series of pop-rock recordings, 1974–83; recorded multiplatinum LP Arrival, 1976; group dissolved, 1983; Andersson and Ulvaeus co-authored musical Chess, 1986; revival of public interest in group, including release of retrospective reissues and cover recordings by other artists, early 1990s.
Awards: Winner, Eurovision song contest, 1974; named Sweden’s fastest-growing corporation by Swedish publication Business World, 1978.
Addresses: Record company —Polygram, 825 8th Ave., New York, NY 10019.
and, in retrospect, the group’s multiple talents came more clearly into view. Their song lyrics, always economical and ideally suited to the requirements of the three-minute radio single, ascended to the level of incisive little dramas about romance. Their tunes, easily memorable after one hearing, turned out to contain subtleties that made them memorable after twenty years. And, in addition to participating in the disco trend, Abba helped make it possible through its pioneering use of dense, multitrack arrangements and sophisticated musical electronics.
The group’s name (which was sometimes spelled with all capital letters) was an acronym formed from the initial letters of the first names of each of its members. Agnetha Fâltskog, Benny Andersson, Bjôrn Ulvaeus, and Anni-Frid (“Frida”) Lyngstad were all active in the Swedish pop music business while they were still teenagers. In the 1960s Fältskog and Lyngstad gained some renown as solo vocalists, while Andersson and Ulvaeus fronted a succession of bands with widely varying musical styles, and also worked steadily as session musicians. By the time Abba took shape as a group in 1972, all four of its members were veterans of the Swedish pop music scene.
Abba’s first hit came with the singsong “Ring Ring” in 1973, but the group’s success was cemented the following year when the song “Waterloo” was named the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual program televised in 32 countries and watched by hundreds of millions of people. “Waterloo” was released as a single and rocketed to top chart levels in many countries, reaching number six in the United States. Versions in several different languages were released, but Andersson and Ulvaeus wrote “Waterloo” and all of the group’s other songs in English. From the start, the group aimed toward the global success they eventually achieved.
Although some critics have made light of the group’s use of English (“they had a way of making English sound like Esperanto,” maintained Time’s Richard Lacayo), few native-born American songwriters would have been capable of controlling and developing the central device of the “Waterloo” lyric: Napoleon’s final defeat becomes a metaphor for a woman’s total surrender to romantic attraction.
Throughout the 1970s, Abba was a consistent generator of worldwide chart successes, and while Andersson and Ulvaeus aimed more at entertainment than at rock “authenticity” in their writing, their compositions were always original and sharp, drawing on a large variety of pop music traditions. “Money, Money, Money” had the dark cynicism of German composer Kurt Weill’s satiric cabaret songs. “The Name of the Game” expertly manipulated major and minor harmonies to depict a romance in its breathless opening stages. And “Dancing Queen,” though it treated a subject no more profound than a 17-year-old girl on a dance floor, vividly captured the moment when a dancer becomes the center of attention to everyone around her. “Dancing Queen” brought Abba its only American Number One early in 1977.
“Dancing Queen” was also the first of a group of Abba songs that took dancing and nightclubs for theirthemes, a trend that intensified with the worldwide popularity of disco in the late 1970s. Abba had major hits with pulsing seduction anthems like “Voulez-vous” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” both in 1979. But the synthesized-sound wizardry associated with disco had always been one of the group’s hallmarks, with even early hits like “SOS” (1975) featuring a dense rhythm track and a parade of unexpected sonic effects. “Abba eclipsed the bland top 40 of their day by insisting on a big beat,” noted Walters. “In doing so, they virtually invented Eurodlsco.”
Abba’s multitrack recording equipment was state-of-the-art in its time, and producer Stig Anderson, like the Beatles’ producer George Martin, was sometimes referred to as a fifth member of the group. An Abba tour was a major undertaking, for it was difficult to recreate the band’s sound in live performance. Abba’s lush production values, blending, strings, keyboards, and synthesized sounds with the electronically modified voices of the group’s two female vocalists have been likened to those of pioneering American pop producer Phil Spector and his “wall of sound.”
Abba entered the 1980s with another string of hits, including “The Winner Takes It AH” and “Super Trouper.” But the latter song, which deals with the rigors of touring, might have taken root in tensions that divided the group at the time: the six-year marriage of Ulvaeus and Fältskog had dissolved in 1978, and a long relationship between Andersson and Lyngstad also broke up. And, most importantly, Andersson’s and Ulvaeus’s musical interests seemed to shift away from the short, hook-oriented single.
Several of Abba’s pieces in the early 1980s were complicated structures that seemed as if they could come to life as part of a live stage musical. The title track of the 1981 LP The Visitors was a long, free-form depiction of a woman’s mental breakdown; “The Day Before You Came” (1983), one of the group’s last single releases, completely lacked a chorus melody and more closely resembled a dramatic speech set to music than a simple piece of dance pop. Andersson and Ulvaeus pursued this dramatic bent after Abba’s breakup in 1983, collaborating with Jesus Christ Superstar lyricist Tim Rice on the successful stage musical Chess, which premiered in 1986 and included the hit single “One Night in Bangkok.”
Village voice critic Robert Christgau expressed a common attitude in the rock-music community when he evaluated Abba this way in 1979: “We have met the enemy and they are them.” Yet the group’s public covered the globe. Australia and Germany were particularly devoted, while the United States was one of the few places where Abba’s success was sporadic rather than continuous. Bootlegged Abba tapes proliferated in Southeast Asia; even its legal sales alone allowed the group to surpass Volvo as Sweden’s most profitable producer of goods for export. In 1982 the Christian Science Monitor estimated the total income from Abba’s large entertainment-industrial empire at over $200,000,000.
Abba’s deep reservoir of public support made them a natural for revival when popular taste shifted back to sonically inventive dance pop in the early 1990s. A greatest hits package, Gold, stayed at Number One on many of Billboard’s European charts for months on end, and in late 1993 Time reported that the Abba revival was “surfacing fast in America” as well. This revival was spearheaded partly by urban homosexuals, whose affection for Abba’s music Walters ventured to explain this way: “ABBA was so mainstream, you had to be slightly on the outside to actually take them to heart.”
Two new releases seemed to point to the depth of Abba’s influence. The British technopop duo Erasure released a four-song CD of Abba covers that itself topped the charts in the United Kingdom, while a disc of Abba instrumentals by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra showed off Andersson and Ulvaeus as the skilled musical craftsmen they were. Although Andersson and Ulvaeus joined the Irish supergroup U2 on stage for a performance of “Dancing Queen” early in 1992, the individual members of the quartet rarely showed up in the public spotlight during the early 1990s. Their place in the worldwide history of popular music, however, was steadily growing in importance.
Waterloo, Atlantic, 1974.
Abba, Atlantic, 1975.
Arrival, Atlantic, 1976.
The Album, Atlantic, 1978.
Voulez-vous, Atlantic, 1979.
Super Trouper, Atlantic, 1980.
The Visitors, Atlantic, 1981.
The Singles —The First Ten Years, Atlantic, 1982.
I Love Abba, Atlantic, 1984.
Gold (greatest hits, contains all pieces discussed in text), Polygram, 1994.
Gammond, Peter, The Oxford Companion to Popular Music, Oxford University Press, 1991.
Larkin, Colin, The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, New England Publishing Associates, 1992.
The New York Times Great Songs of Abba, Cherry Lane Books, 1980.
Pareles, Jon, and Patricia Romanowski, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1983.
Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, revised edition, St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Billboard, June 27, 1992.
Christian Science Monitor, September 1, 1982.
Circus, March 30, 1978.
Details, May 1994.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 1983.
Time, October 11, 1993.
Variety, October 7, 1981.
Village Voice, September 1, 1982.
—James M. Manheim
A Greek transliteration of the Aramaic ’abbā', a vocative or declarative form of ab, "father." The significance of abba in the NT continues to be debated in biblical studies and Christology. Its earliest uses in Christian sources, Gal 4.6 and Rom 8.15, depict Christians crying out Abba during Spirit-inspired prayer to express their adoptive relationship with God. The only other NT occurrence of the term is Mk 14.36, a later witness, where Jesus addresses God as Abba during his agony in the garden. Many interpreters have regarded this Aramaic word as used by Jesus as an instance of the ipsissima vox Iesu. His prayer in Mk 14.36, however, is witnessed by none (see Mk 14.37), raising uncertainty as to the evangelist's source of the wording.
Each of the NT examples of abba is followed in Greek by ho pater, "the father." The seeming redundancy of abba ho pater has been variously explained: ho pater may be understood as a translation into Greek of the Aramaic ’abbā'. Abba could also be taken to mean "God," with the whole expression then meaning "O God, the (or my, or our) Father."
Over the centuries a so-called "abba -problem" has centered at various times on philological, historical, and theological issues (see Fitzmyer, "Abba," 47–50). Scholars have asked whether the historical Jesus would indeed have used this mode of address (i.e. applied such a familial term to God), from what source(s) the early Christians derived their use of the word, what its relation is to other gospel instances where Jesus simply used the word "Father," and what the theological implications of the term are for Jesus himself and for the NT writers, Paul and Mark.
The research of German biblical scholar Joachim Jeremias gave new life to the debate beginning in the 1950s. Jeremias put forth the thesis that in all of pre-Christian Palestinian literature there is no other use of God being addressed as abba by an individual Jew in prayer. He interpreted this as indicating a uniqueness in the relationship between Jesus and God, an idea he linked also with a theory that this particular form of the Aramaic word for "father" had its origin in the chatter of small children, e.g. as in English "Daddy," "Papa" (see biblio. of Jeremias' main works on this subject in Fitzmyer, "Abba," 132, n.1). While Jeremias continued to hold in his later writings that Jesus "spoke to God like a child to its father, simply, inwardly, confidently" (Prayers, 62), he also called it "a piece of inadmissible naivety" (ibid.) to assume, as he had earlier, that Jesus really spoke to his Father like a small child. Nonetheless, popular works and some exegetes have continued to expound Jeremias' original position.
Integral to the important criticisms leading to various degrees of nuancing, or rejecting, Jeremias' approach (see the summary in Ashton, ABD 1:7–8) is evidence from Qumran. There are now two known instances, albeit in Hebrew not Aramaic (4Q372 1:16; 4Q460 5:6), where for the first time an individual Jew is seen in pre-Christian Palestinian texts calling upon God as "my father." This still seems to leave open the question, however, of whether Jesus's use of the Aramaic term to call upon God was an expression of unique filiation as early in the first century A.D., as he is portrayed doing so.
While some theologians use Jesus' use of Abba as a starting point in their Christology, others question whether he even voiced the word at all. Feminist theologians, concerned with the problem of language and imagery applied to God, often focus on what abba meant with respect to issues of patriarchy in early Christian communities where it was used.
Bibliography: j. ashton, "ABBA," ABD 1:7–8. j. barr, "‘Abba' Isn't 'Daddy,"' Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1988) 28–47. m. r. d'angelo, "Abba and Father: Imperial Theology and the Jesus Traditions," Journal of Biblical Literature 111 (1992) 611–30; idem, "Theology in Mark and Q: Abba and 'Father' in Context," Harvard Theological Review 85 (1992) 149–74. j. a. fitzmyer, "Abba and Jesus' Relation to God" in idem, According to Paul (New York/Mahwah 1993) 47–63 (slightly rev. ed. of "Abba and Jesus' Relation to God," in r. gantoy (ed.), A cause de l'évangile: Etudes sur les Synoptiques et les Actes offertes au P. Jacques Dupont, O.S.B. à l'occasion de son 70e anniversaire (Lectio divina 123; Paris 1985) 15–38. j. jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus (London 1967). a. sand, "‘Abba-Vater' Gotteserfahrung und Gottesglaube Jesu," Renovatio 48 (1992) 204–218; e. schuller, "4Q372 1: A Text about Joseph," Revue de Qumran 14 (1989–90) 349–76; idem, "The Psalm of 4Q372 1 within the Context of Second Temple Prayer," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54 (1992) 67–79; c. ternyÁk, "‘Abba' nel pensiero di Joachim Jeremias," Folia Theologica 2 (Budapest 1991) 29–60.
[f. m. gillman]
ABBA (Ba ), two amoraim are known by this name.
(1) abba (late third and early fourth centuries), in his youth probably knew Rav and Samuel, the founders of rabbinic learning in Babylonia. He was, however, primarily a disciple of R. Huna and R. Judah, and frequently is mentioned together with their other disciples. Like R. Zeira, Abba ignored R. Judah's prohibition to leave Babylonia and emigrated to Ereẓ Israel (Ber. 24b). In Ereẓ Israel Abba was a close friend of R. Zeira and other Palestinian scholars. In Tiberias he studied with R. Johanan's chief disciples, R. Eleazar and Resh Lakish. After the death of Eleazar, leadership passed to R. Ammi and R. Assi, but Abba was considered equally great and was referred to in the Babylonian academies as "our teacher in the land of Israel" (Sanh. 17b). Abba dealt in silk (bk 117b) and became very wealthy. This enabled him to honor the Sabbath by buying 13 choice cuts from 13 butchers (Shab. 119a). A very charitable man, he never embarrassed the poor and would put money in his scarf which he would hang behind his back, so that the poor might take the money without him seeing their faces (Ket. 67b). He frequently revisited Babylonia, but always returned to Ereẓ Israel for the festivals. Thus he transmitted Babylonian teaching and traditions to Ereẓ Israel and vice versa (tj, Shev. 10:2,39c; Ned. 8:1,40d; bm 107a). When the body of his teacher Huna was brought from Babylonia for burial, Abba eulogized him, saying "Our teacher deserved to have the Shekhinah rest upon him, were it not that he lived in Babylonia" (mk 25a). Influential in both halakhah and aggadah, Abba's teachings are found in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds, as well as in the Midrash. (For a critical analysis of the traditions relating to the death and burial of Rav Huna, see S. Friedman, Historical Aggadah, pp. 146ff.)
(2) abba (the later; fourth–fifth centuries), Palestinian amora. Abba went to Babylonia, probably during the anti-Jewish reaction following the death of *Julian the Apostate in 363 c.e. Abba is mentioned together with R. Ashi, to whom he transmitted the Palestinian tradition (bk 27b). He is also quoted as saying to R. Ashi: "You have derived teaching from this source, we derive it from a different one, as it is written: 'A land whose stones are iron' [Deut. 8:9], Do not read 'whose stones' [אֲבָנֶיהָ, avaneha] but rather 'whose builders' [בּוֹנֶיהָ, boneha, i.e., sages]", meaning that a scholar who is not as hard as iron is no scholar (Ta'an. 4a; cf. Bek. 55a). He is not mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud.
(1) Bacher, Pal Amor; Hyman, Toledot, 3–8. (2) A. Harkavy (ed.), Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim, 4 (1887), no. 248; Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 573–6; Hyman, Toledot, 9ff.
[Yitzhak Dov Gilat]
ABBA, Swedish pop band, formed 1970. Membership: Benny Andersson, kybd., gtr., voc. (b. Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 16, 1946); Bjorn Ulvaeus, gtr., voc. (b. Gothenburg, Sweden, April 25, 1945); Agnetha “Anna” Faltskog, voc. (b. Jonkping, Swedent, April 5, 1950); Anna-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, voc. (b. Narvik, Norway, Nov. 15, 1945).
One of the few non-British European groups to achieve consistent success stateside, ABBA issued a series of international hits beginning in 1974 that established them as the world’s #1 pop group by 1977.
Formed in 1970 in Stockholm, Sweden, ABBA first gained international recognition as the winner of the Eurovision network song contest in 1974. Their winning song, “Waterloo,” became an American hit from their debut album of the same name. Major hits through 1980 included “SOS,” “Fernando,” “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and, perhaps their finest offering, “The Winner Takes All.” Following Super Trouper and their final major hit, “When All Is Said and Done,” ABBA disbanded. Faltskog and Lyngstad each recorded solo albums in the early 1980s, while Andersson and Ulvaeus achieved their greatest subsequent success as composers for the musical Chess. In the mid-1990s ABBA experienced a revival of interest in their music, when it was used in the Australian movies Muriel’s Wedding and Prisdlla, Queen of the Desert.
ABB A: Waterloo (1974); ABBA (1975); Greatest Hits (1976); Arrival (1976); The Album (1978); Voulez-Vous (1979); Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1979); Super Trouper (1980); The Visitors (1980); The Singles (1982); I Love ABBA (1984); ABBA Live (1986); Gold—Greatest Hits (1993); Thank You for the Music (1995). FRIDA LYNGSTAD: Something’s Going On (1982). AGNETHA FALTSKOG: Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1983); I Stand Alone (1988). BENNY ANDERSSON, BJORN ULVAEUS, AND TIM RICE: Chess (Broadway original cast) (1988).
Marianne Lindvall, ABBA: The Ultimate Pop Group (Edmonton, 1977); Harry Edington and Peter Himmelstrand, ABBA (Magnum, 1978); John Tobler, ABBA for the Record: The Authorized Story in Words and Pictures (Stafford, England, 1980); Rosemary York, ABBA in Their Own Words (London, 1981).
ABBA (Rava, Rabbah ; eighth century), rabbinical scholar; disciple of *Yehudai Gaon and possibly also of *Aḥa of Shabḥa, the author of She'iltot. Abba is the author of Halakhot Pesukot, a juridical tract in the vein of She'iltot from which it apparently quotes. It was published in segments twice – first by S. Schechter and then by J.N. Epstein. A small monograph on the laws of phylacteries (probably part of a larger work), which has been attributed to Abba, was appended by *Asher b. Jehiel – who calls it the work of a gaon – to his own laws on the subject, under the title Shimmusha Rabbah ("Rabbah's Legal Practice"); it was printed in the Vilna edition of the Talmud in Asher's Halakhot Ketannot at the end of tractate Menaḥot. *Judah b. Barzillai pointed out that many of its utterances run counter to talmudic regulations, a phenomenon which he attributed to errors by pupils and copyists. Among Abba's best-known pupils was *Pirkoi b. Baboi.
S. Schechter, in: Festschrift … David Hoffmann (1914), 261–6 (Heb. sect.); Baron, Social2, 6 (1958), 339–40, n. 43, 356, n. 72; J.N. Epstein, in: Madda'ei ha-Yahadut, 2 (1927), 147–63.
ABBA (Heb. אַבָּא), Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew (av, אָב; "father"). The term was in common use from the first century onward (cf. Mark 14:36). In the early centuries of the Christian era it was used in both Jewish and Christian sources in addressing God, and in talmudic times as a prefix to Hebrew names, probably to designate an esteemed scholar (cf. Abba Hilkiah, Abba Saul). K. *Kohler, however, was of the opinion that the title referred specifically to Essenes. Because of its honorable association, it was forbidden to call slaves by this name (Ber. 16b). It often occurs independently, sometimes perhaps as an abbreviation of Abraham. Its fusion with the prefix "rav" (for "rabbi") gave rise in Babylonia to the names "Rabbah," "Rava," and to their abbreviated forms, "Ba" and "Va" in Palestine. It is a common name among Ashkenazi Jews in Eastern Europe and Israel, often used as an agnomen of Abraham. The word survives in European languages as an ecclesiastical designation (Abbas, Abt, Abbot), while in modern Hebrew it has largely displaced the Hebrew av as the popular term for "father."
Klein, in: Leshonenu, 1 (1928/29), 326; Kohler, in: jqr, 13 (1900/01), 567–80 (but see Urbach, in: piash, 2, pt. 4 (1966), 17–36).
Associated with the disco scene of the 1970s, the Swedish quartet ABBA generated high charting hits for an entire decade, and for years trailed only the Volvo motor company as Sweden's biggest export. Comprised of two romantic couples—Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog, and Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad—ABBA formed in the early 1970s under the tutelage of songwriter Stig Anderson and scored their first success with "Waterloo" in 1974. From that point on, ABBA blazed a trail in pop sales history with "Dancing Queen," "Voulez Vous," "Take a Chance on Me," and many other infectious singles, spending more time at the top of United Kingdom charts than any act except the Beatles. Although the group (as well as the Andersson-Lyngstad marriage) dissolved in the early 1980s, ABBA's legion of fans only grew into a new generation. Notably, ABBA was embraced by many gay male fans. Songs like "Dancing Queen" practically attained the status of gay anthems.
Snaith, Paul. The Music Still Goes On. N.p. Castle Communications, 1994.
Tobler, John. ABBA Gold: The Complete Story. New York, St.Martin's Press, 1993.
ABBAS. Iranian, b. 1934. Genres: Translations, Adult non-fiction. Career: Al Chaab (newspaper), Algiers, reporter and photographer, 1962-63; Olympic Games Committee, Mexico City, Mexico, photographer, 1968-69; Jeune Afrique (magazine), Africa, freelance photographer, 1970-71; Agences SIPA and Gamma, Paris, press photographer, 1974-80; Magnum Photos, Paris, photographer, 1981-. Has worked on photo assignments for periodicals. Photography represented in individual and group exhibitions. Publications: PHOTOGRAPHS, EXCEPT WHERE INDICATED: Le Zaire Aujourd'hui (title means: Zaire Today), 1974; Gamma: Le Secret des Grandes Photos (title means: Gamma: Behind Great Photos), 1978; Iran: La Revolution Confisquee (title means: Iran: The Revolution Stolen), 1980; (with others) Magnum Concert (exposition catalog), 1985; Retornos a Oapan, 1986; Return to Mexico: Journeys beyond the Mask, 1992; (author of text) Allah O Akbar: A Journey through Militant Islam, 1994. Address: c/o Magnum Photos, 19 Rue H Moreau, 75018 Paris, France.