First Lou Reed died in 2013, followed by David Bowie and Prince in 2016. Cultural giants with unsurpassed careers leaving a legacy previously unheard of. Bowie was an especially hard blow considering the extremely high quality of his latest output, equalling some of the best music from his over 50 year dominance of pop. The world of music will never be the same again.
Here in Sweden 2016 saw the demise of two personal heroes. First Olle Ljungström, who on a number of more or less classical albums presented a series of often depraved slices of life. Witty, quirky, intelligent and always with a wry sense of humour. Although his death had been heralded for some time, after years of hard living and diabetes, it still came as a sad surprise. The smart voices are so few and the white noise so loud.
Despite even worse health problems for many years, the death of Freddie Wadling on the 2nd of June 2016 was even more shocking. While not well-known outside Sweden, Freddie has been around forever and has had a career unlike any other Swedish musician. Beginning his tour de force in punk group “Liket Lever” with enduring classic “Levande begravd”, Freddie entered the Swedish music scene out of left field with a fully formed voice completely his own.
Seminal band Cortex delivered an updated version of Wadling´s musical concerns with the debut album “Spinal Injuries”. While largely ignored at the time of release, it has since become a sleeper classic in the Swedish post-punk annals. Great songs and unique performances. Queasy words and well-chosen options of delivery. Lyrically intense and musically diverse, this is a debut album that has kept remarkably well through the years, as well as premiering what is probably their best known song.
Several incarnations of Cortex followed, as well as stints in other bands, before Freddie took the next step in his career forming the fabulous “Blue for Two”, together with producer and keyboard player Henryk Lipp. Probably the best group of the Swedish mid-80´s with a totally unique sound. An intense, mutated and moody electronic rock firmly anchored in the bluesy voice of Freddie Wadling, carried along by the razor sharp synth arrangements by Lipp. Their first two albums, “Blue for Two” (1986) and “Songs from a pale and bitter moon” (1988), are still amongst my all time favourites. I have strong memories of seeing them live during this period and being absolutely blown away by the force of their performance.
From the 90´s and onward, Freddie´s career took yet a new direction, when he launched himself as a solo artist, releasing several celebrated albums of both Swedish standards and songs specially written for him by an array of contemporary Swedish artist. Coming from the punk underground and known for his lurid interests and hard living, the appeal that his later albums has had to a broader audience must have come as something of a surprise. By then severe health problems (including a liver transplant) had changed Freddie from young energetic rocker to an aged representation of frailty and vulnerability. Typically dragging himself across the stage to the waiting chair, supported by his signature wooden cane. But once seated, with a stack of song lyrics on his lap, he could still unleash that wonderful voice. No one like him will ever be seen or heard again.