1740–1795
portrait

February 1740, Söder, Stockholm, Sweden.

February 11, 1795, of tuberculosis.

Klara Kyrkogård, Stockholm, Sweden.

Known as a poet, song writer, composer and performer, Bell­man is a central figure in the Swed­ish song tradition and remains a powerful influence in Swed­ish music, as well as in Scan­di­na­vi­an literature, to this day.

He is best known for two collections of poems set to music: Fred­man’s Songs (Fred­mans Sång­er) and Fred­man’s Epis­tles (Fred­mans Epistlar). Each consists of about 70 songs. The general theme is drinking, but the songs express feelings and moods ranging from humorous to elegiac, romantic to satirical.

Bellman’s patrons included King Gus­tav III of Swe­den, who called him the master improviser. Bell­man has been compared to Shakes­peare, Beet­ho­ven, Mo­zart, and Ho­garth, and had a gift of using baroque classical references in comic contrast to sordid drinking and prostitution, which are at once regretted and celebrated. Bell­man’s songs continue to be performed and recorded by musicians from Scan­di­na­via and in other languages, including Ital­i­an, French, Rus­sian and Eng­lish.

  1. Bellman