Bjork Guðmundsdóttir (born November 21, 1965, Reykjavík, Iceland) is a singer/songwriter.
Björk's musical career began at the age of eleven, when she began studying classical piano in elementary school. One of her instructors submitted a recording of Björk singing Tina Charles' song "I Love to Love" to Radio One, an Iceland radio station. The recording was aired nationally; upon hearing it, a representative of the record label Fálkinn contacted Björk with a record contract offer. With the help of her stepfather, who played guitar, she recorded her first album, eponymously entitled Björk, in 1977, which featured several Icelandic children's songs, and covers of popular songs such as the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill". The album became a smash hit in Iceland, though it was virtually unknown elsewhere.
Punk music began to have an influence on Björk; at the age of fourteen, she formed the all-girl punk band Spit and Snot, shortly followed by a jazz fusion group called Exodus in 1979. In 1980, she graduated from music school at the age of fifteen, and in 1981, she and Exodus bassist Jakob Magnússon formed another band, Tappi Tíkarrass, and released an extended single, Bitið fast í vitid in the same year. Their album Miranda was released in 1983.
Björk next collaborated with Einar Örn Benediktsson and Einar Melax from Purrkur Pillnikk, and Guðlaugur Óttarsson, Sigtryggur Baldursson and Birgir Morgensen from Þeyr. After writing songs and rehearsing for two weeks they performed under the name KUKL (which means 'witchcraft' in Icelandic). The group found that they worked well together, and decided to continue, developing a sound that some have described as resembling Goth music. Björk began to show indications of what would become her trademark singing style, punctuated with howls and shrieks.
KUKL toured Iceland with UK anarchist band Crass, and later visited the UK in a series of performances with Flux of Pink Indians. The band produced two albums as a result of these collaborations: The Eye in 1984, and Holidays in Europe in 1986, both on Crass Records. In the summer of 1986, several members of KUKL went on to form the Sugarcubes.
The Sugarcubes' first single, "Ammæli" (or "Birthday" in English), became a huge hit in England. They gained a significant cult following in the US and UK, and calls from record companies began coming in. Eventually the band signed with One Little Indian, and recorded their first album, Life's Too Good, in 1988, an album which propelled them into international stardom—the first Icelandic rock band to achieve such popularity. While with the Sugarcubes, Björk participated in a number of side projects. She recorded Gling-Glo, a collection of popular jazz and original work, with the bebop group Trio Guðmundar Ingólfssonar, released in Iceland. Björk also contributed vocals to 808 State's recording Ooops, a collaboration which cultivated her interest in house music.
Tensions steadily mounted between Björk and Einar Örn, however, and by 1992 the Sugarcubes dissolved. Björk moved to London and began thinking about a solo career; to this end, she began working with producer Nellee Hooper, who had produced for Massive Attack, among others. Their partnership produced Björk's first international solo hit, "Human Behaviour." Her third debut album, simply entitled Debut, was released in June of 1993, to positive reviews; it was named album of the year by New Musical Express, and eventually went gold in the United States. Debut was a mix of songs she had written since she was a teenager as well as lyrical collaborations with Hooper.
The success of Debut led her to collaborate with other artists on one-off tracks; she worked with David Arnold on Play Dead, the theme to the 1993 film The Young Americans (which appeared as an extra track on a re-release of Debut) and also appears on a track on the 1997 album 'Not for Threes' by Plaid, on the cult Warp Records label.
Björk returned to the studio during 1994 to work on her next solo album with Nellee Hooper, Tricky, Graham Massey of 808 State and electronic music producer Howie B. Post contains songs based on Björk's relationships and songs about love (one of her favorite subjects), as well as some angry and confrontational material.
She wrote the title track for Madonna's album Bedtime Stories, and performed on MTV Unplugged during this time. By 1995, the new album Post was ready; it was released in June, reaching number two on the UK's pop charts, and also went gold in the United States. January of 1997 saw the release of Telegram, an album of uncharacteristic remixes of songs from Post.
Later that year, the minimalist electronic album Homogenic was released. Björk worked with producers Mark Bell of LFO and Howie B on the album, as well as Eumir Deodato; numerous remixes followed. Homogenic is regarded as one of Björk's most experimental and extroverted work to date, with enormous beats that reflect the landscape of Iceland.
In 2001 the album Vespertine was released. This album saw Björk creating an introverted, internal, personal world of microbeats and tiny rhythms. The album featured chamber orchestras, Inuit choirs, very hushed vocals and personal, vulnerable themes. She collaborated with experimental sound manipulators Matmos, a DJ from Denmark Thomas Knak, and an experimental harpist Zeena Parkins for the album.
In 2003 Björk released a series of low-priced DVDs and CD boxed sets containing a plethora of unreleased material. Greatest Hits saw the release of a retrospective of the previous 10 years of her solo career.
2004 is shaping up to be a notable year for Björk. The year will see the release of a Singles Box Set which will contain all of the singles released by Bjõrk as well as previously rare and unreleased single material. 2004 will also see the release of her new album titled Medúlla, scheduled for late August. Previously, the album was code named by fans "The Lake Experience" because most of the recording of the album has been done in a cabin by the lake.
In August 2004 she performed the song "Oceania" (from her Medúlla album) at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Björk in film
Björk's brief acting career began in 1990, when she appeared in Juniper Tree, a tale of witchcraft based on the Brothers Grimm story of the same name. Björk played the role of Margit, a girl whose mother has been killed for practicing withcraft. Björk also had an uncredited role in 1994's Prêt-à-Porter.
In 1999, Björk was asked to write and produce the musical score for the film Dancer in the Dark, a pseudo-musical about an immigrant named Selma who is struggling to pay for an operation to prevent her son from going blind. Director Lars von Trier eventually asked her to consider playing the role of Selma, a proposal she initially turned down. He then threatened to stop the project, which would have made all the musical work she had already done useless. Eventually, she accepted. Filming began in early 1999, and the film debuted in 2000 at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival. Björk received the best actress award for her role, and yet she described the shoot as so physically and emotionally trying that she has sworn off acting ever again. The soundtrack Björk created for the film was released with the title Selmasongs.
Björk usually goes by her first name only. This is not a stage name or affectation; it is normal for an Icelander to be referred to by his or her first name. See Icelandic naming conventions.
Björk means "a birch tree" in Icelandic (the meaning of Icelandic names is often transparent), cognate with Old English beorc and the modern English word. Guðmundsdóttir means "Guðmund's daughter". Though many English-speakers pronounce her name "Byork", a more accurate approximation would be "Byerk", which she has pointed out, rhymes with "jerk".
Tappi Tíkarrass discography (1982–1984):
Bítið Fast Í Vítið (1982)
KUKL discography (1983–1986):
Satt 3 (1984)
The Eye (1984)
KUKL à Paris 18.9.84 (1984)
Holidays In Europe (The Naughty Nought) (1986)
The Sugarcubes discography (1986–1992):
Life's Too Good (1988)
Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week! (1989)
Stick Around For Joy (1992)
It's-It (1992) (remixes)
Sugarcubes Interview Disc (1988)
The Great Crossover Potential (1998) (greatest hits)
Björk discography of her solo career (1976–present):
Telegram (1997) (remixes)
Greatest Hits (2002)
Family Tree (2002)
Live Box (2003)
Collaboration with other artists:
Play Dead (Theme from The Young Americans) (with David Arnold) (1993)
Lilith (with Plaid) (1997)