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The Winner Takes It All: The Story of the Song

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The Winner Takes It All was written and performed by the Swedish band ABBA in 1980. This song is a typical ballad that explains the difficulty of breaking up with someone. One person is clinging to the relationship, finding it difficult to let go, whilst the other can easily move on. 

The song was always intended to be a success, but neither the name nor the melody started out the way they ended up. The working title was originally “The Story Of My Life” and the rhythm was said to be much more upbeat and less heart wrenching. After working on it for a few days, the writers finally ended up with this famous tune. Björn Ulvaeus, a member of ABBA is said to have listened to the final tune on repeat trying to find a message of the song and it was he who wrote the entire song and the title “The Winner Takes It All”. 

He is known to have written his song lyrics “clean” without the influence of drugs and alcohol but as he stated in an interview, “by the time I wrote ‘the gods may throw their dice’ the bottle was empty” and he barely had to change a word.

Only a year earlier, Björn separated with wife and ABBA co-star Agnetha Fältskog. The lyrics clearly express the pain and difficulty of a couple going their separate way  and it is often suggested that his own personal breakup is reflected through the lyrics. 

The song was a huge global success reaching number one in many countries. It is also the epitome of the storyline in the film Mamma Mia, featuring ABBA’s songs. The producer of this film has suggested it was this song that gave her the idea of the film. When Meryl Streep recorded this song for the film, it was completed in only one take.