The Norwegian pop trio broke through in the US when their previously unsuccessful tune "Take On Me
" hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985 thanks to an innovative music video that combined pencil-sketch animation with live action. They hit the chart again when the single "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.
" landed at #20. While their success in the US was short-lived, the group became much bigger stars in Europe, notching a string of international hits throughout the '80s and '90s.
Harket stumbled upon the title "a-ha" in Waaktaar's songbook and suggested it for the band name. "It was a terrible song but a great name," he told Rolling Stone.
Waaktaar and Furuholmen met when they were kids and later formed the prog rock group Bridges. When the pair moved to London, they were bombarded by the pop music culture, which was scarce in Norway, and embraced the new sound. Harket, who was a member of the blues/soul band Souldier, joined the group as lead singer and the trio became a-ha.
They also have a huge following in South America, particularly in Brazil, where the Rock In Rio festival is held. At the 1991 event, a-ha's audience at the Maracana stadium topped out at 198,000, a Guinness World Record for the biggest rock concert attendance. When the festival invited the trio back for its 30th anniversary in 2015, it prompted the group to reunite after a six-year hiatus and release the comeback album Cast In Steel.
During the band's early days in London, Waaktaar met his wife, Lauren Savoy, a Boston native who was studying abroad. The couple married in 1991 and joined their surnames. In 1994, they started the rock band Savoy, which found a following in Norway.
Their sole Grammy nomination was for Best New Artist in 1986, but the prize went to the English band Sade.
Coldplay, Keane, Oasis, Robbie Williams, Morrissey, and U2 are among the band's admirers.
Furuholmen's father, jazz trumpeter Kare Furuholmen, was killed in a 1969 plane crash in Oslo, when the a-ha keyboardist was six years old. Furuholmen was shocked to learn that Harket witnessed the tragedy as a child when he was returning from vacation with his family.
They wrote and recorded the theme song
for the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights
. They had a rocky working relationship with the movie's composer, John Barry, who referred to the trio as the "Hitler Youth" at the film's premiere.