Carola: The Swedish Eurovision winner's new gospel direction

Wednesday 1st February 1995

She's won the Eurovision song contest and has had a million selling album. Now Sweden's CAROLA is fulfilling her long held dream to sing about Jesus. Tony Cummings reports.


It's a bit ironic that Carola, whose black gospel-orientated album 'My Tribute' has just been released by Nelson Word into British Christian bookstores, should have been referred to in at least one publication as a "newcomer". For in terms of recording Swedish born Carola is far from that. In 1983 when Carola was a tender 16 years old her debut album 'Franleg' sold a million copies in Sweden, a staggering achievement in a country with a population of less than 9 million people! The title track of her smash was the Swedish entry in that year's Eurovision Song Contest. A year before the teenager's sudden explosion to national stardom Carola, who had become a Christian at age 13, received a prophecy. She still remembers it vividly.

"When I was 14 I got a prophecy about a calling on my life and when I was 16 everything happened for me. I won the Eurovision Song Contest and suddenly my whole life changed... TV, recording. When I won the competition I was interviewed. They asked me, 'How do you feel?' and I said, 'I thank God.' Then the interviewer said, 'You have a special book behind the stage, what book is that?' It was my Bible and I told her. Suddenly, the whole of Sweden watching on TV was hearing about the Gospel."

More albums, TV appearances and tours followed for Carola though in '86 her record company's efforts to broaden her appeal internationally by recording her in English with a * big budget album The Runaway' I produced by ex-Bee Gee Maurice Gibb resulted in an expensive flop. Carola unhappy with some of the showbiz trappings of her life, turned to gospel music, playing some gospel concerts with piano maestro Per-Erik Hallin in '87. She even recorded an album ("It was a live album, just me and Per-Erik on the piano. We did black gospel and worship songs.") in 1987. The following year she enrolled in Bible College. Explains Carola, "I wanted to know a bit more, I wanted to stay strong. I felt a little bit caught up in the secular business thing and my dream has always been wanting to be led by God. I felt that I needed to quit everything and go back where I started, go back to Bible school and take hold of my calling again and say to God 'where do you want me to go?'"

Carola could hardly have expected the response. On returning to showbiz she was asked to sing a song "Captured By A Love Storm" for the Eurovision Song Contest. Not only did it win for Sweden, in the finals in Rome it was voted the winner. "I was surprised!" admitted Carola. "I felt in my heart that God wanted me sing this song, it was a great break for me. The media was going, 'Now Carola, she is in Bible school,' etc, etc."

Carola recorded a new pop album. But in 1993 she finally got the opportunity to record a gospel album for BMG. "It was my dream. I had been doing gospel shows; I'd been doing gospel medleys in my tours. I'd been standing up for my beliefs. At last I had the chance to record something that I really wanted to do."

The album 'My Tribute' has a very strong black gospel influence. In fact, the title track is a cover of an old Andrae Crouch And The Disciples song and there are several other revivals of gospel warhorses. Carola explains, "In Sweden when we say a gospel album we think about black gospel. That was the aim of 'My Tribute' and I think we succeeded. The journalists were writing very positively about the album."

Carola toured 'My Tribute' not only in Sweden, but in Norway and Denmark. In Holland, after Carola's album was released by Spark Music, she was voted 'artist of the year'. After the success of 'My Tribute' Carola is now recording a less black gospel, more CCM album. Despite her commitment to record and perform Christian music, Carola doesn't underestimate the power of her "secular" songs to touch people's hearts as well. She says, "I have a song 'All The Reasons To Love', it's a secular song, a ballad. It goes, 'He gave me all the reasons to love.' I sing it to God but it doesn't say Jesus in the lyrics. I sing it with a conviction, an anointing, and then the Holy Spirit can touch people when I sing it. People cry when I sing it, it ministers fife to them. I had letters from people who were contemplating suicide but decided not to while they were listening to the song. They say this song brought hope back to their lives. That's why I'm singing."

A key to the power inherent in Carola's ministry is her commitment to Christian disciplines. "I go to a strong church. When I need help people pray for me, we have strong worship and strong teaching and preaching. And of course I read my Bible every day. My husband and I both go through a one-year Bible reading plan. That is really helping me. I'm more of a charismatic kind of feeling person and sometimes I read the Bible very much when I feel for it. But my husband is more disciplined... Every day before I leave I take time to have a morning prayer time, fellowship with the Lord, worship him, pray. I'm living a Christian life and fasting sometimes. My husband is a preacher. When we were in South Africa we had meetings where I would sing and we would minister together."
This then is Carola, a huge star in her homeland with the heart, as well as the talent, to make music to touch many lives. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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