As frontman in Hoola Bandoola Band, Mikael Wiehe became one of the most important musicians of the Swedish progressive movement. When the band broke up, as did the entire movement in the late '70s, Wiehe started a very successful solo career. Being part of the progressive movement in Sweden meant that you were expected to deliver a socialist message. Hoola Bandoola Band was at times accused of not being political enough, but in the '80s, when political music died, Wiehe and Björn Afzelius kept up the tradition, seemingly alone but to big success. They only recorded two albums together, but toured once in a while and were often regarded as an informal duo. Despite the rock and pop of Hoola Bandoola Band and some of the electric experiments in the '80s, Wiehe was mainly a singer/songwriter heavily inspired by early Bob Dylan. In his later career, he showed more influence from a traditional domestic tradition, and though his audience aged considerably during the '80s and early '90s, the late '90s saw revived respect for political songs and brought a new audience.
Wiehe was born in Stockholm in 1946, but his family soon moved to Copenhagen. After a divorce, Wiehe's mother moved with her son across Öresund to the Swedish town of Malmö, a place that Wiehe was to be associated with throughout his entire career. In his teens, he learned to play saxophone and played with a number of jazz bands, among them Bluncks Lucky Seven. When this group disbanded, Wiehe and his brother, Thomas Wiehe, went to Paris to form the pop band Moccers. They were heavily influenced by the Beatles and with the scene abundant with Beatles copies, even Moccers had some success in Sweden. The band only lasted for two years though, after which Mikael Wiehe took a short break from the music scene to study. After a year, he was contacted by the developing band Spridda Skurar to help in their creative process. Spridda skurar bandmember Björn Afzelius and Wiehe soon took the project to a completely new direction with Wiehe writing songs and singing lead vocals. The band was renamed Hoola Bandoola Band and mixing pop qualities rarely seen among alternative bands in the '70s with a social message, it was to become the most popular band of the Swedish progressive movement.
In 1975, Hoola Bandoola Band broke up and most of the members went on to pursue solo careers. Wiehe formed Kabaréorkestern, a mellow and jazzy constellation including former Hoola Bandoola Band members Arne Frank and Ove Kellgren. The first album was titled Sjömansvisor (sailor songs) and was released in 1978. The most well-known song from this album was "Titanic," probably Wiehe's most famous song ever. Known for his commitment to Latin America, he then toured Cuba with Afzelius and Ulf Dageby in 1979 before releasing the second and last album with Kabaréorkestern, Elden är Lös, on his own label Amalthea. This was followed by the more direct Kråksånger in 1981, containing the hit "Flickan Och Kråkan" and widely considered Wiehe's best solo album, followed by De Ensligas Allé, containing synth versions of Dylan songs. The album was well-received by the critics, if not by the audience, and Wiehe released a few more albums in this style, mainly singer/songwriter but with strong influences from new wave. After Hemmingwayland, Wiehe returned to a more traditional track. In the mid-'80s, he got together with his old companion Afzelius and released the album Björn Afzelius & Mikael Wiehe, which marked the peak of both their solo careers. They participated in a number of solidarity festivals, supporting liberation organizations like ANC, and toured throughout Sweden to massive success, as well as in the rest of Scandinavia and Latin America. At a time when the solidarity from the '70s was supposed to have died and when most progressive bands had quit, Wiehe and Afzelius became the best-selling Swedish artists despite, or maybe because of, an explicit socialist message.
After the mid-'80s tours, Wiehe's popularity started to decline. While not lacking in fame and touring extensively with backing, solo, or together with Afzelius, his albums didn't sell as much. A number of semi-successful releases were followed by Det Ligger Döda Kameler i Min Swimmingpool by Mikael Wiehe & the Sun Kings, the least successful album in his career. But by the late '90s, he saw revived interest for the '70s and while regaining some of his ageing fans, Wiehe also managed to attract a younger audience, both as a solo artist and together with Hoola Bandoola Band, which reunited in 1996. The albums from the late '90s show a slight return to a more down to Earth sound and in 2000, Wiehe released En Sång Till Modet (a song about courage). This was his most political album in years and was better received by the critics than any of his albums from the '90s. ~ Lars Lovén