Norwegian singer, musician and songwriter Sverre Kjelsberg has died at home, at the age of 69. He represented Norway at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1980, where he performed the song “Sámiid Ædnan” with Mattis Hætta. The song was notable for combining Norwegian and joik singing.
Born in the northern city of Tromsø, Kjelsberg got his start in the 1960s with his band The Pussycats. One of the Norway’s biggest rock bands, they released two albums, Psst! Psst! and Mrrr…Mrrr and had a number of hit singles in Norway and Europe. In 2012, they were inducted into the Rockheims Hall of Fame, and the band recently reunited in 2013.
In the 1970s, Kjelsberg moved towards a folkier sound. Among his compositions of this era was “Ellinors vise” (“Ellinor’s show”). That song became closely associated with Norway’s labour movement, and it is regarded as one of Norway’s best loved songs.
In 1980 he teamed up with joik singer Mattis Hætta and won Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix with the song “Sámiid Ædnan” (“Sami Earth”). They went on to represent Norway that year at the Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague. Their song only placed 16th out of 19, but with time it has become known as an iconic Eurovision performance, the first time the indigenous joik singing style was heard at Eurovision.
Norwegian journalist and The Pussycats biographer Per Kristian Olsen described Sverre Kjelsberg: “He was an incredibly generous human being, a great and friendly man who was both gentle and mindful of their surroundings.”
Sverre Kjelsberg was 69, and leaves behind three adult children.
Photo credit: NRK