Jan Hammarlund, according to The Encyclopedia of progressive Swedish music, ”one of the major singer/songwriters of the movement.” Jans debut album Befriade från skolan(1972), contained a protest against the US war in Vietnam and was prosecuted under the pretext of having infringed on ”moral copyright law”. His second album När bandet slutar spela confirmed his position with dreamy poetry only partly political, but in 1974 in the wake of the military coup in Chile, he turned to chilean songwriter Violeta Parra, recording her songs in his own translations on an album whose entire profit went to the Chile Committees. He was one of the founders of the Bella Ciao group in 1975, presenting italian labour and political songs in swedish. Lena Ekman, another member of the group then joined with him and Turid (who had been a close friend of Jans since 1968) in a trio that toured and recorded. At this point Jan met and made friends with californian songwriter Malvina Reynolds, who became a great influence on his writing.
1n 1977 Jan Hammarlund came out as the first publicly gay artist in Sweden, recording various powerful gay songs on his albums through the end of the 70’s and the 80’s, most importantly Ville. His greatest success as a songwriter is Jag vill leva i Europa, a love declaration to that continent which hints at Hammarlunds scepticism and opposition to the market orientated EU project. Jan Hammarlund has also translated and recorded french cabaret songs (Tvärs över går’n, 1984 and 1995) and Bertolt Brecht’s poems in the classical musical settings by Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau in his own translations on Om trädgårdsbevattning (1996).
CDs Alby-Bilbao (2000), Grässtrån och gatsten (2002) and, above all Röda linjen (2007) have further established his reputation as an intelligent and subtle political singer/songwriter. Jan has had several of his songs translated into and recorded in spanish, but has only recently started singing some of his songs in english translation. Apart from Scandinavia, he has sung in England, USA, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
In fellow artists Anne Feeney’s words, ”Jan Hammarlund is an incredibly versatile artist. Since emerging on the new folk scene in Sweden in 1972, Jan’s songs of struggle, liberation and love have garnered him the admiration of acoustic music fans and activists all over Scandinavia. In addition to his popular original compositions, Jan has introduced the songs of Violeta Parra to Swedish audiences with his sensitive translations. He’s also turned his translation talents to the works of Brecht, Malvina Reynolds and various French cabaret-style composers. His marvellous performances of these songs are available on other recordings. Jan Hammarlund is more than a musical storyteller – he’s a singing historian. On Röda Linjen you’ll find songs about a labor massacre in Ådalen in 1931, about the so-called ”honor killing” of Fadime Sahindal in Sweden in 2002, about Jerusalem – a city under siege by three monotheistic religions, about Franz Schubert’s struggle for his life and his art in 19th century Vienna, and compelling songs about neo-Nazis and fearless union leaders. You’ll also find intimate and playful portraits about swimming at Vinterviken, a dog on Palestine’s West Bank, and a Swedish music festival in the far north.