Björk Guðmundsdóttir aka Björk¹
Björk's name contains many letters unfamiliar to many languages; in her native Icelandic the following pronunciation is correct, (according to my hearing of her pronouncing her name with her pre-London accent):
- B as English B.
- J as Y in yes.
- Ö as UR in fur but shorter, and without the R.
- R pronounced with a single trill, similar to an L.
- K as English K.
Around the world, the pronunciation is localised into more familiar sounds, with much of the English-speaking world saying bee-york.
Her surname, written Gudmundsdottir or Guthmundsdottir in the English world, is a product of Icelandic naming convention, meaning Guðmund's Daughter. Pronunciation of this is left as an exercise for the reader.
The Early Years
Björk was born in Reykyavik, Iceland on November 21, 1965. Her quasi-hippy parents, Guðmundur Gunnarsson and Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, encouraged her creativity a great deal, and by the age of 5 she was playing piano and flute. She attended a local music school to further her talents. Her rebellious streak began to show at this stage; she was being taught that "200 years of German music is it, and the rest is crap" which she didn't accept².
Her distinctive features were also causing her to stand out. Her pixie-looks and black hair, which is very rare in Iceland, gained her the nickname 'China Girl' in school.
She released her first album, imaginatively entitled Björk, at the age of 11. Released only in Iceland, it includes two instrumental tracks, one of which is a tribute to Icelandic artist Jóhannes Kjarval.
Punk, Thor and Sindri
During her teenage years, Björk was a member of several fleeting punk bands including Exodus, Tappi Tíkarass, and Kukl being the most prominent with two album releases. It was during this time that she met and married Thor Eldon. He fathered her child, Sindri Thorsson but the marriage split up shortly afterwards.
In 1986, Björk entered the new wave, with the Sugarcubes (Sykurmólarnir), co-founded with Eldon. The band enjoyed considerable success, with indie chart toppers and high-profile tours with bands such as U2 and New Order.
After the Sugarcubes split amicably in 1992, Björk moved to London with Sindri, and began work on a solo career. The Sugarcubes had just had a hint of stardom with their last original³ album (Hit), but that was nothing compared with what was to come.
Björk started working with Nellee Hooper, a very well established producer, already famous for his work with Soul II Soul. Her first solo album (Debut) enjoyed enormous success internationally. It was only now that the general public began to know who Björk was.
With her move to London came a change in her accent, which now stands exactly half-way between Icelandic and North London, a strange combination indeed.
She began dating Goldie, which attracted the attention of an American fanatic - opposed to interracial relationships. He filmed himself sending her an acid bomb then killing himself. Luckily the bomb never reached her, but she was shaken by the event.
Björk has always had a rough time with the media, who seem to be attracted to her quirky ways; she went as far as attacking a photographer at Bangkok Airport when he was attempting to photograph her and then 10-year-old Sindri. She stated: "I'm willing to take on the not-so-nice things that come with my job. It's fair. But when it starts to leaking over to my family or especially my child, I get very protective"
She has had a brief foray into film, but finds the artistic reins pulled too tight, and has vowed not to add to her collection of three appearances.
Her discography and filmography are left to other writeups.
¹ Everyone is on first-name terms in Iceland. Even in the phone book.
² The quotation is of Björk's words, not those of the music school!
³ Other albums followed, but they were all remixes.