1740–1795

Introduction

portrait

Born: Feb­ru­a­ry 1740, Sö­der, Stock­holm, Swe­den.

Died: Feb­ru­a­ry 11, 1795, of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

Buried: Kla­ra Kyrk­o­gård, Stock­holm, Swe­den.

Biography

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.

Music