ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaeus wrote this after separating from wife and fellow band member, Agnetha Fältskog. It's about a divorce where one person doesn't want to separate and clings desperately to the marriage. It put Agnetha in the strange spot of being asked to sing a breakup song written by her ex-husband. Ulvaeus didn't intend it this way. He explained: "I sang a demo of it myself which a lot of people liked and said, you have to sing that. But I saw the sensible thing of course, it had to go to Agnetha. I remember coming to the studio with it and everyone said, Oh this is great, wonderful It was strange hearing her singing it. It was more like an actress doing something when she sang it, but deeply moving. Afterwards there were a few tears as well."
Bjorn has said that while he usually didn't use drugs or alcohol while writing, he had a bottle of brandy next to him while writing the lyrics for this song. It was very personal to him. He told The London Times March 26, 2010: "Usually it's not a good idea to write when you're drunk, but it all came out on that one. By the time I wrote 'The gods may throw their dice' the bottle was empty."
Ulvaeus claimed that 90% of this song is fiction, which is why he didn't feel too bad about having his ex-wife sing it. Said Ulvaeus: "I had this image of a man walking through an empty house with all the furniture removed for the last time as the symbol of divorce and just describing what I see."
The cover of their album Super Trouper
was set in a circus. "Super Trouper" is the name given to a spotlight used to illuminate the stars while on stage. The original recordings of the album did not include the songs "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" and "Put On Your White Sombrero." These were added to the song list at a later album release on DVD format.
Like Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way
," this evokes some very Behind The Music
moments as the male band member wrote deeply personal lyrics about a female bandmate. At least Stevie Nicks didn't have to sing lead on Lindsey Buckingham's lyrics like Agnetha did with Bjorn's.
For many people this song with its heartbroken lyrics, swelling crescendos and sudden lulls is the definitive Abba single. Benny Andersson explained to The Sunday Times June 21, 2009 how the catch in the throat music came to be written: "It's the simplest song," he said. "It has two phrases - that's it. And they just go round and round. Now it also has, around those two phrases, this counterpoint thing going on" - Andersson then played the descending theme that opens the song, runs beneath the chorus and, modulated, responds to the verse's vocal melody - "and without a doubt, without that, it would not have been a song. Music is not only melody; music is everything you hear, everything you put together. But without the core of a strong and preferably original melody, it doesn't matter what you dress it with, it has nothing to lean on." Andersson went on to say that for a long time, there were only the two phrases, the latter (the chorus) with each line following immediately after the one before. "And then one day," he went on to say as he played the song again, "we were out in the country, and I suddenly played the chorus like this, pausing each time for the phrase to gather itself, and all of a sudden it was a song. Björn and I played around with it for hours, just feeling that there was something in it that was talking to us. Then we recorded it, but still without the counterpoint, and it still was no good. It was only when, finally, I played this other part that it really made sense."
Despite the song's portrayal of the breakdown of her marriage, Faltskog calls this "her biggest favorite" from ABBA's back catalogue. "It's a shame we never got to play it live," she told the BBC.
Faltskog told The Mail on Sunday in May 2013 this is her favorite ABBA song: "Björn wrote it about us after the breakdown of our marriage. The fact that he wrote it exactly when we divorced is touching really," she explained.
"It was fantastic to do that song because I could put in such feeling. I didn't mind sharing it with the public. It didn't feel wrong. There is so much in that song. It was a mixture of what I felt and what Björn felt, but also what Benny and Frida went through."
Meryl Streep recorded this song in just one take for the ABBA-themed jukebox musical movie, Mamma Mia! Ulvaeus told The Telegraph: "Meryl Streep is a goddess. And at first we couldn't believe that she wanted to do it. I was completely taken by surprise when I saw her performance in the movie. To hear her delivering the songs with all the emotion we put in the lyrics is more than we could have dreamed of."
The Winner Takes It All is also the title to a 1999 documentary about the band.
Australian pop singers Kylie Minogue and Dannii Minogue record this with the BBC orchestra in 2008 for the UK comedy series Beautiful People.
Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch performed this on the series finale of Glee in 2015.