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Carl Michael Bellman

Biography

Born: February 4, 1740; Stockholm, Sweden   Died: February 11, 1795; Stockholm, Sweden  
Carl Michael Bellman was a highly successful composer of drinking songs and generally considered one of the finest Swedish poets from any period. It is difficult to decide whether he was more a poet or more musician: Bellman wrote over 1,700 poems, but he set most of them to music. While in his songs he usually employed popular melodies of the day -- from folk sources, opera, and various instrumental works -- he generally improved on them or used Read more them in boldly imaginative ways.

Bellman was born in Stockholm, where he remained for most of his life, except for a brief period of study at Uppsala University and when he fled to Norway to escape creditors in the 1760s. While his first songs date to the late-1750s, it was in the following decade that he began turning out a consistent stream of popular drinking songs. His artistry in this occasionally controversial genre was eventually noticed by the Court of King Gustav III (1746-1792). The King arranged for Bellman to take a post at the government lottery office, which provided him with ample income for most of the remainder of his life.

Bellman's songs were widely admired throughout Sweden by the 1770s, but his earthy character made him unacceptable to much of Swedish society: he was rejected as unsuitable by the family of Wilhelmina Norman, the woman he had first intended to marry. He eventually married Lovisa Grönlund in 1777, and their union produced four sons. Bellman remained active in his songwriting activities and lived in fairly affluent circumstances until 1792, the year of King Gustav III's murder. Thereafter, Bellman's fortunes quickly declined and his final years saw a return of financial difficulties and was then plagued by deteriorating health. Some of Bellman's best songs can be found in the collections Fredmans Epistlar (1790), Bacchi Tempel (1783), and Fredmans Sånger (1791). Bellman died in Stockholm a week after his 55th birthday, in 1795. Read less


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