ABBA bassist Rutger Gunnarsson has died

Rutger Gunnarsson at Polar Music StudioOn 30 April 2015 bass player Rutger Gunnarsson died suddenly at his home in Stockholm.

Rutger’s association with ABBA predates the band’s formation, when he was recruited to play bass on a Hootenanny Singers’ tour with Björn (and Benny) in 1972. In June that year he had his first recording session ever, playing bass on a session that included the eventual ‘Ring Ring’ B-side, ‘Åh, vilka tider’.  

Rutger went on to play bass on all of ABBA’s albums, right up to the final 1982 singles, as well as their concert tours in 1977, 1979 and 1980, and the Dick Cavett Meets ABBA TV concert. He was there on stage (with drummer Ola Brunkert) when ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. He wrote most string arrangements for ABBA when required starting from 1976. Excluding the four ABBA members, he is the musician who has appeared on the most ABBA recordings.

In 1974 he overdubbed vocals on an unreleased 1971 Björn and Benny recording, ‘Svea Svea’, with backing vocals by the four ABBA members, which was released as a novelty single.

After ABBA his collaboration continued, playing bass for Benny and Björn on the Chess concept album (1984), the first Gemini album (1985), and the Josefin Nilsson album, Shapes (1993).

He played bass on Frida’s albums Frida ensam (1975) and a couple of songs on Shine (1984), Agnetha’s albums Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1983) and Eyes Of A Woman (1985), and also produced her single ‘It’s So Nice To Be Rich’ (1983).

In 2005 Rutger was a member of the orchestra when Mamma Mia! played in Stockholm. He played bass on the Swedish cast recording CD that same year, and also joined Benny and other musicians from the original ABBA recordings for the movie soundtrack in 2008.

Over the years he played bass for a few ABBA tribute touring groups, and was also a member of  The Original ABBA Orchestra In Concert, with several other musicians who had played on ABBA’s records and tours.

I forget if it was Benny or Bjorn who once said that Rutger’s bass was an essential ingredient of the ABBA sound – take it away, and the ABBA sound is gone. Engineer Michael B. Tretow often singled out Rutger’s bass on ‘One Of Us’, which was unusually predominant for bass on an ABBA record.

In an unprecendented move, the four ABBA members signed off on an obituary published in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. An English translation has been published on the Official International ABBA Fan Club’s website.

Rutger was 69.

Author: Ian Cole

My name is Ian Cole, and I live in Sydney, the capital of the state of New South Wales in Australia.

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