Lill-Babs” Svensson of “Bonus Family” once shared stage with the Beatles

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The late Swedish singer and actress Lill-Babs, who recently played the character “Gugge” in the Netflix hit “Bonus Family,” once shared a stage with the Beatles. And, it was the lads from Liverpool who actually requested her autograph after the show!

Barbro “Lill-Babs” Svensson was born in Järvsö in 1938 and released her first album in 1954. She became known as the Järvsø Judy Garland but was later given the name Lill-Babs by Simon Brehm, who discovered her on the Morgonkvisten radio show and became her manager.

Lill-Babs, The Telstars and The Beatles took part in the Swedish show Drop-In in 1963

Lill-Babs finished fourteenth when representing Sweden at the 1961 Eurovision Song Contest in Cannes with the song April, April. However, she participated in Sweden’s qualifying Melodifestivalen three times overall (1960, 1961 and 1973), and even entered Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix in 1969.

As the singing career of Lill-Babs flourished throughout the decades, she became a national treasure. But her most recent success was in the critically acclaimed role as Gugge in SVT hit drama Bonus Family (Bonusfamiljen).

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As “Gugge” (right) in “Bonus Family”

Lill-Babs passed away at 80 years of age on April 3 of 2018. She leaves behind three daughters: Monica Svensson, Malin Berghagen and Kristin Kaspersen.

Rock Island Line: The Song That Made Britain Rock, BBC Four review – the early dawn of Britpop

Billy Bragg travels back through the primeval swamps of skiffle and beyond. TV review by James Woodall

If you were a fan of “Rock Island Line” when it became a pop hit, you’d have to be at least in your mid-70s now. In 1956, Paul McCartney heard Lonnie Donegan perform it live in Liverpool, and Paul’s rising 77. How many below that age know it is moot, though that doesn’t necessarily disqualify it from the hour-long documentary treatment. For blues lovers, it’s a benchmark. “Rock Island Line” dates from the late 1920s and was first recorded in 1934.

Billy Bragg dependably and articulately fronted up this BBC Four history of the song, a protest paean to, or (as it might once have been called) a Negro spiritual about, a railroad network begun in the mid-19th century. Trains eventually steamed to many points west, south and north of Chicago – Rock Island sits west of Chicago, on the east bank of the Mississippi.

Lonnie Donegan album sleeve

Those first recorded voices of the song belonged to black prisoners in Arkansas, way to the south. Key here was that another erstwhile convict, Huddie William Ledbetter – aka Lead Belly, who was violent but musically hugely influential on the 1950s and 1960s: Dylan references him on his first album – was present at the recording, clocked the performance and made the song his own. He died in 1949. Continue reading

Rebel yell: how the Irish dominated British rock music

From The Beatles to The Pogues, Oasis and The Smiths, musicians of Irish descent played a key role in UK scene, writes Johnny Rogan.

British pop music has been celebrated around the world for decades and rightly so.  Rather less attention has been paid to an almost invisible strain of Irishness manifested in the work and characters of several of its leading proponents. A number of these icons, particularly those born of  postwar Irish parentage, shared certain characteristics. They were often angry, awkward, polemic personalities whose music or lyrics challenged and subverted. Ironically, many  were considered English to the core, but scratch deeper and a different picture emerges. Tracing their stories takes you spiralling through four decades from Merseybeat through psychedelia, punk, Britpop and beyond.

Lennon & McCartney

Back in the early ’60s, Liverpool was the centre of the pop universe. Many of the city’s beat groups boasted members of Irish descent, including the biggest of them all: The Beatles […]

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