It seems only fitting that the centennial celebration of cherished Norwegian songwriter Alf Prøysen would climax on the day after the country once again mourned victims of the July 22 attacks in 2011. Prøysen was born on July 23 2014, and he was the master of comfort songs.
Du ska få en dag i mårå, for example, roughly translates to “You’ll get a new day tomorrow,” and it’s a classic, relentlessly reminding the listener that the new day is like a blank page, unused and clean and full of new hope and new opportunities.
Prøysen’s songs and lyrics were simple and down-to-earth, written in his Hedmark dialect and rooted in his upbringing as the son of poor tenant farmers:
Solen skin på deg (The sun shines on you),
så skuggen fell på meg (so the shadow falls on me),
men graset er grønt for æille (but the grass is green for everyone).
After years of having to work on farms himself, since he failed to win financial support for studying, he finally got a book of short stories published just after the war ended in 1945 and then some songs. One of them, written for a school review in the Oslo suburb of Asker, got some airplay on the radio and that led to him being asked by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), in 1946, to write a Christmas song for the children’s radio show Barnetimen. He resp0nded with the classic Musevisa, about a mouse mother instructing her baby mice how to avoid traps so they could all celebrate Christmas Eve. The song was wildly popular, as was Prøysen’s soon-to-be regular contributions to the children’s radio show. Superstardom followed shortly thereafter.
Prøysen wrote more than 40 books for children and adults, cut many records with his songs, toured the country giving concerts and reviews, and worked on several radio and, eventually, TV programs. He started working with review director Mentz Schulerud, whose sister Anne-Cath Vestly also wrote highly successful children’s books and who teamed with Prøysen on a variety of TV programs.
It’s Prøysen’s simple songs, often about life in the countryside for simple folks, that have proven the most endearing and enduring. Countless artists fro Nora Brockstedt to Lars Lillo Stenberg and Maj Britt Andersen have recorded them, many of which have become part of the national heritage.
Prøysen died of cancer in 1970, at the age of just 56, but his memory and his music lives on. His work has been celebrated in local media all year long with his 100th birthday jubilee climaxing this week at the Prøysen Festival back at the place where he grew up at Ringsaker, near the shores of Lake Mjøsa. The festival, featuring the opening on Wednesday of the new Prøysen House next to the humble cabin where he grew up, runs through July 30.