Carl Michael Bellman (February 4, 1740 – February 11, 1795) was a Swedish poet, songwriter, composer and performer.
Bellman is a central figure in the Swedish song tradition and remains a powerful influence in Swedish music, as well as in Scandinavian literature, to this day.
Bellman is best known for two collections of poems set to music, Fredman’s songs (Fredmans sånger) and Fredman’s epistles (Fredmans epistlar). Each consists of about 70 songs. The general theme is drinking, but the songs wonderfully combine words and music to express feelings and moods ranging from humorous to elegiac, romantic to satirical.
Bellman’s patrons included the King, Gustav III of Sweden, who called him the master improviser. Bellman has been compared to Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart, and Hogarth, but his gift, using elegantly baroque classical references in comic contrast to sordid drinking and prostitution, which are at once regretted and celebrated, is unique.
Bellman’s songs continue to be performed and recorded by musicians from Scandinavia and in other languages including Italian, French, Russian and English.