Norwegians lose Anne Grete Preus

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“Open, interested, curious” and “brave” were among words being used on Monday to describe Anne Grete Preus, one of Norway’s most distinctive female vocalists and musicians. The prize-winning Preus lost a 12-year battle with cancer over the weekend, and Norway lost an artist who broke barriers while inspiring many.

Anne Grete Preus playing at Grefsenkollen in Oslo. She died over the weekend, age 62. PHOTO: annegretepreus.no

“She was brave enough to sing about her own vulnerability,” said another Norwegian singer, Kari Bremnes, who shared last year’s Anders Jahre’s Culture Prize with Preus and Ole Paus. Bremnes told state broadcaster NRK that “meetings with her were like continuous conversations. She was an inspiration for me and for many of us.”

Tributes were pouring in for Preus, who was born in the West Coast city of Haugesund and finished high school in Lillestrøm, northeast of Oslo. She noted herself that she was “always the tallest girl in the school yard” and that it was “impossible for me to ever be completely mainstream.” After studying psychology and sociology at the University of Oslo, she became a full-time musician in the 1970s.

With her steel-string guitar, deep voice, and early embrace of punk rock, Preus challenged the image of female singers both in the 1970s and later on. She was an outspoken feminist in her branch, a rebellious front figure in the successful Norwegian rock bands Veslefrikk and Can Can, and later had a brilliant career as a solo artist and songwriter.

Anne Grete Preus (right) posed with Ole Paus and Kari Bremnes last year when they all three won the Anders Jahre Culture Prize, considered the biggest prize for artists in the country. PHOTO: Anders Jahres Humanitære Stiftelse/Sara Rose

NRK and newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday that many female songwriters are grateful to Anne Grete Preus, who also became a professor at the University of Agder and taught composing. She started composing music for theater and film in the early 1980s, and also did the music for Den røde blusen for the Norwegian Opera and Ballet. Her biggest commercial success came in 1994 in the form of her album Millimeter that sold 75,000 copies in Norway, a lot at the time in a small country.

She won four Spellemanns prizes (the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award) and rolled out a string of hits in Norway with a calmer, more thoughtful and literary appeal. Preus stood tall not just because of her towering height of  188 centimeters (nearly six feet). She exemplified alternative rock and went on to show new sides of herself and her music as the years rolled on.

“She was fearless but also never wanted to bother anyone,” said singer and songwriter Ole Paus, who was among Preus’ many friends. “We will miss her. There was only one of her.” She was 62.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund