Jan Hammarlund, according to The Encyclopedia of Progressive Swedish Music, is ”One of the major singer/songwriters of the Movement.”
Jan’s debut album ”Befriade från skolan” (Liberated from School), 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” (When the Band Stops to Play) 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 of Sweden that subsequently for years numbered about a hundred local organizations.
He was one of the founders of the Bella Ciao group in 1975, presenting italian workers’ 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 Jan’s since 1968) in a trio that toured and recorded extensively.
At age 24 he went to the 1975 anti-imperalist song festival in Helsinki in order to meet Malvina Reynolds. At the time she was known in Sweden almost exclusively for ”Little Boxes”. Jan arranged concerts and TV appearances for her in Sweden in 1976 and stayed with her in Berkeley the following summer, returning home to Sweden with hundreds of Malvinas songs on music sheets.
In 1977 Jan Hammarlund came out as the first public gay artist in Sweden, recording various powerful gay songs on his 8 vinyl 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” (I Want to Live in Europe), a love declaration to the continent and which also hints at Hammarlund’s scepticism and opposition to the EU project.
Jan Hammarlund has also translated and recorded classical french cabaret songs in ”Tvärs över går’n” (Across the Yard), 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” (About Watering Gardens), 1996.
CDs ”Alby-Bilbao”, 2000, ”Grässtrån och gatsten” (Straws of Grass and Paving Stones), 2002, and, above all ”Röda linjen” (The Red [Subway] Line), 2007, have further established his reputation as an intelligent and subtle political singer and 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. He has performed in England, USA, Chile and Uruguay.
Jan Hammarlund is a versatile singer with composers Schubert and Schumann increasingly on his broad repertoire.
In August 2013 he released ”Löst folk” (Loose People), an album of traditional folk songs and on August 13, 2014, ”Uncovered Malvina Reynolds” was released. Jan had translated and recorded a handful of Malvina’s songs over the years but it was not until 2013, when Karl-Jonas Winqvist got in touch with him, that they came up with the idea of recording an album of Malvinas previously unrecorded and mainly unknown songs.
The Malvina-CD lead to a small tour of the US in April-May of 2015 with Anne Feeney – in The Midwest – Chicago, Madison, Sheboygan, De Pere, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Detroit, Cleveland and Saint Paul. Most of the concerts were part of ”The Joe Hill Road Show” for the 100 years commemoration of Joe’s death in Salt Lake City, Utah. With us were JP Wright, Bucky Halker and Lil Rev.
In may 2016 came Jan’s new CD, ”Vid kajen” (By the Quay).
In October 2016 Jan took part in the 80 years commemoration of the International Brigades that defended the spanish government against Franco’s troups in the war. Jan gave a multilingual concert at Universidad Juan Carlos in Madrid.
About Jan 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 marvelous performances of these songs are available on other recordings which are also available on CD-Baby, Spotify and Apple Music. 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 Scandinavian music festival.
1994 Jan received the José Martí Award, in 2017 the The Pablo Neruda Award by the government of Chile, in the same year Vadim Kozin Ordeo Musica Award ”For outstanding musical contributions to LGBT culture and identity", in 2018 The Jörn Svensson Award, and in 2020 The Swedish Song Award.