They worked closely together on hit musical ‘Chess’ in the early 1980s, before reuniting recently at the second Mamma Mia movie premiere.
However, while they’re both still huge names in music, theatre legend Elaine Paige, 70, has admitted that ageing has not only impacted her own music and life, but that of ABBA star Benny Andersson too.
The pair became close in the ’80s when Benny and his ABBA co-star Bjorn helped pen some of the biggest hits of musical ‘Chess’, alongside Tim Rice. Elaine was one of the leading stars in the original line-up, spending lengthy periods working on the music with the legendary song-writers.
Now, speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, the star of musicals ‘Evita’ and ‘Cats’ recalled a memorable conversation she once had with Benny about getting older, and how it has affected his song-writing.
“I know having spoken to Benny about song-writing, about this very thing – because obviously he’s over 60 now – he said when he was young and starting out with ABBA he would just sit down at the piano every day and these songs would topple out without him even trying,” she said.
“Now he says he still sits down at the piano every day, but he really has to work at it.”
Elaine has felt the impact of age herself, and she added: “Everything gets harder as you get older because everything is wearing out a bit and you slow down, but it brings other things. Maturity brings good things in your life that you don’t have when you’re young. I think every decade of life brings something new and that should be embraced.”
While Elaine and Benny haven’t remained close over the years, they recently enjoyed a reunion at the Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again! premiere in London and spent the time reminiscing about the old days.
“It was so fantastic to see them,” she said. “They were both very warm towards me, we started reminiscing right of the bat.
“It was just so wonderful to see them again after all these years. We’ve made a pact that should I pop over to Sweden at all during the summer months, which I may well do, we’ve all agreed to have lunch or dinner together.
“We can sit and talk about the good old days… except their good old days are good days again!”
Elaine shot to fame right across the world after starring as Eva Peron in the first production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Evita’ in 1978. It kickstarted a huge career for her on the stage – much of which was spent working with music legend Lloyd Webber from then on.
“I met Andrew and Tim Rice before ‘Evita’ in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. I auditioned to get into the chorus and they were at the audition,” she recalled. “My memory was that they were very polite to me, very complimentary, but it wasn’t really until ‘Evita’ that I got to really know them.”
She added of Lloyd Webber: “He’s a very intelligent man, a quiet genius really. He’s a bright and intelligent man, always one step ahead of what the public are wanting. He’d come up with some brilliant ideas that everyone else would think are strange!”
Elaine is now in a happy relationship with younger partner Justin Mallinson – 23 years her junior – who she’s previously credited with ‘keeping her young’.
“I think being around young people [is great], I have some great friends who are younger, with some my own age and some older who are in their 80s who you’d never believe were in their 80s. They behave as young as I am or younger,” she said.
The star is now preparing to tour Australia in October, recreating some classic hit songs from the likes of Carole King, Paul Simon and Lennon Or McCartney – and she explained the shows will focus heavily on the song-writers behind the hits, and the stories behind their creation.
“They’re part of my early, youthful life. Lyricists and song-writers don’t get their just deserts. When people hear music, they know they like a song or whatever but they don’t really pay attention to who wrote it,” she said.
While Elaine doesn’t write her songs herself, she said she has a heavy vetting process when choosing one to perform – ensuring the lyrics mean something to her.
“Choosing songs to sing is a very personal thing,” she explained. “They have to say something for me as if I had written them myself. I want songs to be able to speak for me, and as I’m not a writer, I have to find songs that lyrically say the things that I’d want to say.”
Elaine Paige will perform a series of concerts across Australia in October. To buy tickets, visit mjrpresents.com