Norway loses a ‘national treasure’

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Jahn Teigen was mostly known as a pop singer, perhaps even a laughable one at that, not least when he dressed up in skeleton costumes or green tights. He became all but immortal for scoring zero points when representing Norway at a Eurovision Song Contest, but that only made him even more endearing at home. His death Monday night has set off a storm of media coverage and tributes.

Jahn Teigen, shown here at a concert in Langesund in 2011, died after a long illness Monday night. PHOTO: Bamble Kommune/Wikipedia

“Our national treasure has passed away,” wrote Culture Minister Abid Raja on social media just after news of Teigen’s death at a hospital in southern Sweden was released. “The entire country had a dear and near relation to Jahn Teigen, and his music has left a mark on all of us.”

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) devoted much of its national morning news coverage to Teigen on Tuesday, even overriding its regular 10am newscast at the top of the hour. Newspapers VG, Aftenposten and most others gave his death wide coverage, with NRK calling him “one of the greatest we had.”

He spent 52 years as a recording artist, 38 as a solo artist. He otherwise was a songwriter, musician and vocalist in bands including Popol Vuh/Ace and Prima Vera, and performed with Anita Skorgan who also was his wife from 1984 to 1987.

Eurovision loss was a victory at home
NRK credited his breakthrough as a solo artist to his success in Norway’s Eurovision qualifier, Melodi Grand Prix, in 1978. He won the Norwegian final with his iconic Mil etter mil (Mile after mile), which wound up with zero points at Eurovision itself. That only made him even more popular back home, with the song becoming a big hit and enduring as one of Norway’s most well-known melodies.

He holds the record for taking part in the most Melodi Grand Prix finals (16, according to NRK) and winning four of them, wearing a skeleton costume at  Eurovison in 1976. He sold millions of records with hits in Norway including Optimist, Det vakreste som fins (The most beautiful to be found) and Min første kjærlighet (My first love). He won Norway’s top Spellemann prize (Norway’s version of the Grammy) twice, in 1983 and 2009, and was inducted into the Rockheim Hall of Fame in Trondheim in 2012, also in 2017 along with the Propol Ace band.

He was knighted by King Harald in 2010 for his contributions as a musician and artist, with the monarch specifically noting Teigen’s generosity towards other artists and people in general. He was hailed with a statue of himself, portrayed as sitting at a café table, in his hometown of Tønsberg. It had already attracted a rose from an admirerer within minutes of the announcement of his death.

Withdrew to a farm in Sweden
Teigen suffered from severe arthritis and was not well enough to attend a major, televised celebration of his 70th birthday last year. He had withdrawn from the public spotlight to live on a farm in southern Sweden called Klockargården at Ingelstorp, outside Ystad.

His manager Trond Lie reported that he died at Ystad Hospital Monday evening. He’s survived by his 35-year-old daughter Sara Skorgan Teigen whom he had with Anita Skorgan. The family was reported to be in mourning and unwilling to comment on Jahn Teigen’s death.

Culture Minister Raja closed his official recognition of Teigen by expressing the government’s gratitude for his “fantastic contribution” to the country’s cultural life over many decades. “You will be missed,” Raja wrote.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund