Full Name: Björk Guðmundsdóttir (Gvooth-moonds-daugh-terr)
Birth Date: November 21, 1965
Birth Place: Reykjavik, Iceland
Fact: The last name Guðmundsdóttir literally means Gudmundsdaughter; all in ancient Icelandic tradition of having dad's first name as your last name and adding whether you are the son or daughter.
Born into a creative background, to parents who were members of a hippie-ish commune, Björk was encouraged to develop her talents to such an extent that she released her first record at the age of 11. It was quite a big Icelandic hit. From this point onwards, her childlike, otherworldly image, adopted so as ‘not to threaten people,’ has belied an astute and canny approach to her life and career.
Throughout her childhood, she dabbled in music and other artistic activities, all quite punky and anarchic in approach, while singing in cover bands. By 1986 she was in a band called Kukl, half of which broke away to create The Sugarcubes, featuring Thor, the father of Björk’s son Sindri, on guitar. They became Iceland’s biggest export, and Björk’s voice, with its full, strong range from whisper to screech, became familiar to many.
The members of The Sugarcubes always had outside projects, and Björk was no exception, recording a jazz/swing LP with an Icelandic jazz trio in 1990, and collaborating on two tracks with 808 State’s Graham Massey on their 1991 album, EX:EL, including the single “Ooops.” However, after The Sugarcubes’ amicable split in 1992, her varied tastes became even more diverse, firstly with the release of her 1993 single, “Human Behaviour.” A brooding commentary on an unfathomable species, it was her first taste of work with producer Nellee Hooper, the man behind Soul II Soul and Massive Attack. Happy with the result, the two ended up working together on a whole album’s worth of material. The music on Debut (1993) veers between layered, percussive tunes, anthemic house and bare-bones acoustic numbers, with Björk’s odd turn of phrase and pronunciation -- pitched somewhere between ReykjavÃk and London -- dominating proceedings. Boosted by the success of the single “Play Dead,” from the soundtrack of the film The Young Americans, Debut achieved worldwide sales of 2.5 million -- Björk had become something of a ‘coffee table’ pop star, acceptable in most quarters.
Throughout 1994, Björk was reported to be working with everyone from Madonna to The Beastie Boys. Apart from the dancefloor success of the remixed album track “Big Time Sensuality,” however, all was quiet, until the April 1995 release of “Army Of Me.” Co-written by old friend Graham Massey, it featured in the movie Tank Girl and was later the opening track on Post (1995). More experimental and explorative than its predecessor, it requires work from the listener, but is worth the effort if you can handle songs that mutate and lurch from hard techno to orchestral arrangements. Legend has it that one song, “Cover Me,” was even recorded in a cave.
Christmas 1995 saw Björk’s hit revival of “It’s Oh So Quiet,” a remarkable vocal theatric, backed by string quartet The Brodsky Quartet and classical percussionist Evelyn Glennie. In 1996 she was awarded Best Female International Artist award at the Brits, turning up and hiding behind boyfriend Goldie. However, the overreactive shyness (and perceived threat to her family’s privacy) drove her to thump a TV camerawoman at Bangkok airport a few days later, helping to dispel the Björk-as-cuddly-elf myth.
Björk’s 1997 album, Telegram, was a remix project based on the Post tracks. However, as she re-recorded the vocals to fit the new music -- provided by Dilinja and Dobie, with further aid from Glennie and the Brodskys -- the result was effectively a completely new album. Despite adopting a lower public profile after being sent a letter bomb early in 1997, Björk continued to work throughout the year -- with a new album, Homogenic, released in September. The new album, in many ways, reflected the strain in her personal life over the preceding twelve months, being angrier, older and wiser. The music followed darker paths, too, definitely not a singalong cash-in on the success of “It’s Oh So Quiet.” Stand-out tracks, “Hunter,” “Jóga” and “Pluto” emphasize her skills as composer, singer and producer.
After the release of several remixed singles packages of Homogenic material, all went quiet until the start of the new millennium. Whether Björk intends to concentrate her energies on music or acting remains to be seen. In 2000 Björk exploded back into the limelight, staring in the Lars Von Trier film, Dancer In The Dark. This Palme-D’Or-winning movie-musical received mixed reviews on its release, but all agreed that Björk’s accompanying soundtrack album, Selmasongs (2000), was a triumph. Featuring many of her familiar musical elements - strings, brass, chaotic beats, etc - and guest vocalists like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, this dynamic work hurls cacophonous orchestral charges against both explosive electronic rhythms and mellow lulls, with equally fine results.