Swedish singer Anna-Lena Löfgren set her sights on an international career after enjoying considerable success in her homeland. Billed simply as Anna-Lena in Germany, she scored hits with lightweight fare such as Dein Herz, das muß aus Gold sein, giving her fellow Scandinavian stars a run for their Deutschemarks.
She was born Anna-Lena Löfgren on 1 May 1944 in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. As a baby she contracted polio, which left her with a deformed right foot.
At school, this meant that while her classmates off on the sports field, she got to spend more time in the music room. She turned this to her advantage, joining first the school choir and, later, Stockholm Radio’s choir.
As a keen singer, she took part in a number of talent contests and club appearances. Brought to the attention of bosses at Stockholm’s Metronome label as early as 1959, she came to cut her first record in 1961. Her breakthrough came a year later with the single Regniga natt, which sold over 100,000 copies.
Further hits followed, and with Swedish stars such as Siw Malmkvist enjoying great success in Germany, it wasn’t long before Metronome’s German arm decided that Anna-Lena deserved a slice of the action. The singer had no objections – she’d studied German at school and liked the language.
Issued in 1962, Iwan Iwanowitsch, a translation of a Swedish release, became her debut German-language 45. However, its Russian theme played badly in a country recently divided in two by east-west politics.
Follow ups Schöner als es war and Sieben weissen Möwen also flopped. (The latter is notable for its B-side, Abschiednehmen ist so schwer, a version of Neil Sedaka’s Breaking up is hard to do.)
Still a star in her homeland, Anna-Lena attempted to win a place as Sweden’s entrant to the 1963 Eurovision song contest with Säg varför, but lost out to Monica Zetterlund.
It wasn’t until 1964, with the release of Morgen hast du keine Sorgen, that the singer succeeded in turning around her fortunes in Germany. The song, a chirpy cover of US star Ricky Nelson’s Today’s teardrops, spent four months on the charts, peaking at number 20.
However, the choice of Oh, muß die Liebe schön sein, a take on Go tell it on the mountain, failed to capture the momentum and disappeared with trace. Equally, Wenn zwei sich wie wir gut versteh’n (originally, Ned Miller’s Invisible tears), issued in 1965, attracted little attention. Again, the flip, Wein’ nicht um die And’re, a version of Connie Francis’ Don’t cry on my shoulder, has proved the more popular side over time.
One of Germany’s biggest musical guns, successful songwriter Hans Blum, was called in to help get the singer’s career back on track. However, even his Vergessen ist schwer didn’t sell and it looked like Anna-Lena might prove a one-hit wonder in Germany.
Salvation came with the release of Dein Herz, das muß aus Gold sein in spring 1967. The song, another Ned Miller cover, this time of Do what you do, do well, sailed into the charts, reaching number 17 during its five-month stay.
The similarly country and western-styled, though original, Bleib doch steh’n made the top 40 later that year.
By this time, Anna-Lena had married, though the union wasn’t to last. She later married (and divorced) again, though she succeeded in keeping her private life out of the media, preferring instead to project a wholesome image.
A second attempt to represent Sweden at the Eurovision song contest, this time with Jag vill tro in 1968, failed, though Schlager outing Dein Glück ist mein Glück consolidated Anna-Lena’s star status in Germany. The song became a top 30 hit that summer.
What is perhaps most surprising about the release, however, is that Immer am Sonntag was left languishing on the B-side. The original, Il ragazzo della Via Gluck, had proved a massive hit for Italian star Adriano Celentano, had been a success for Françoise Hardy (as La maison où j'ai grandi) and even proved the biggest hit of Anna-Lena’s career in her homeland (as Lyckliga gatan) after topping the Swedish charts.
Like many of the Scandinavian stars who were enjoying success in Germany at the time – among them Wencke Myhre, Dorthe and Kirsti – Anna-Lena was fed on a diet of unerringly upbeat Schlager ditties. But unlike some of her contemporaries, the singer did not complain about the material she was given – she simply enjoyed being able to sing and perform for a living.
Her next single, Alle Blumen wollen blühen, proved another case in point. Entered into the 1968 Deutsche Schlagerwettbewerb, Anna-Lena appeared to have borrowed Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat for the occasion. The cheerful song gave the singer a further chart hit, despite finishing fourth at the contest, behind Siw Malmkvist, Dorthe and France Gall.
The singles Rot ist die Liebe and Zum Weinen kein Talent, both issued in 1969, continued her run of hits.
The change of decade saw the singer attempt a change of direction. However, the failure of Eine Hütte in den Bäumen, a version of Mary Hopkin’s Temma Harbour, in 1970, sent Anna-Lena scurrying for the safety of more familiar territory with Arm oder reich.
By this time, her German chart career was over. Singles such as 1971’s Das Lied vom Glück (styled after Judy Collins’ Amazing Grace) and 1973’s Jedes Herz braucht eine Heimat (Susan Raye’s LA International Airport) and Rosen aus Papier (Marie Osmond’s Paper roses) failed to resurrect it.
She found a second career as a radio presenter back in her homeland. She made the occasional return to the recording studio, including in 2001 to record a new German disc, Irgendwann nimmt das Glück dich in den Arm, and in 2005 for the Swedish album På begäran. Increasingly, however, she restricted her public performances to spiritual music.
She died in May 2010, at the age of 66.
With thanks to Jens Keller for additional sound files.