Carl Michael Bellman (help·info) (February 4, 1740 - February 11, 1795) was a Swedish poet and composer. Bellman is a central figure in the Swedish song tradition and remains a very important influence in Swedish music, as well as in Scandinavian literature in general, to this day.
His main two works are the Songs of Fredman ("Fredmans sånger") and the Epistles of Fredman ("Fredmans epistlar"), each including some 70 songs, many of which are about sociable drinking and or designed for the occasion of the same. But this aspect of his songs is not the main reason he has become such an icon in the Scandinavian song tradition. A master of rhyme and rhythm, with a wonderful sense for combining words and music, his songs were innovative and original in form (parodying and refreshing contemporary literary styles was one of his specialties), as well as challenging in subject matter. On the surface, his songs centered to large extent around themes like the joy of inebriation and the pursuit of sexual pleasure. Against this backdrop however, he manages to elucidate the tender and fleeting themes of love, death, and the elusive qualities of the 'present', the here-and-now, in a unique and moving manner. His songs reflects aspects of the life for the common man in 18th century Stockholm, but by his composition Gustafs skål, an informal royal anthem, he had also acquired the patronage of King Gustav III of Sweden. Some of the characters of his songs are the clockmaker Fredman, the prostitute Ulla Winblad, the ex-soldier, now alcoholic Mowitz and Fader Berg, a virtuoso on several instruments. Some of these were based on living models, some probably not. His songs often reference Greek and Roman mythological characters such as the ferryman Charon and the God of wine and pleasure, Bacchus.
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