Blog post

Siw Malmkvist, Swedish singer and actress

The first Swede to hit the US charts

Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

Swedish musicians and singers have been topping the charts all over the world from the past few decades - from ABBA and Ace of Base to Zara Larsson. However, in the 1950s, one singer - Siw Malmkvist - was the first Swede to have a hit record on the US charts.

Malmkvist's career began in the 1950s when she won a talent show. Since then, she has gone on to have a successful career as a singer and artist across Europe. She has recorded around 600 songs in ten languages - Swedish, English, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, German, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish.

Born in Skåne County in southern Sweden, Malmkvist grew up in an orphanage, the youngest of a family of eight children.

Aged 18, she won a talent competition semi-final in Skane, and then competed in the final in Stockholm, which she also won. This led to her first record and being signed by the record company Metronome.

As an actress, she has played many roles on stage in plays and musicals and in films. Among her roles, she has performed in the musicals Cabaret, Nine and as Pippi Longstocking in a musical adaptation of the children's book by the Astrid Lindgren.

In 1964, she was the first Swede to have a hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, when "Sole Sole Sole" (a duet with Italian singer Umberto Marcato), entered the chart, peaking at No. 58.

In the early 1960s, Malmkvist was launched in Germany.

One of her first songs released there reached number 4 in the charts. Her song Liebeskummer lohnt sich nicht reached number 1 in 1964. She has since gone on to have a succesful career in Germany, where she is one of the most popular foreign artists.

She entered the Eurovision Song Contest twice. In 1960, the Contest was held in London; Malmkvist came 10th with the song 'Alla andra får varann'.

The following year, along with singer Gunnar Wiklund, she won the Swedish selection Melodifestivalen with the song April, April. But she didn't go to the international competition in Cannes - another singer (Lill-Babs) was selected instead.

Malmkvist returned to the Eurovision Song Contest in 1969, singing not for Sweden but for (West) Germany. Her song Primadonna came 9th.

In 2016, Malmkvist was elected to the Swedish Music Hall of Fame reflecting on a long and successful career. Even today - aged 84 - Malmkvist continues to sing and perform in Sweden.

Women's History Music Singers Sweden