Johnny Bode

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Johnny Bode (1912-83) at the beginning of his musical career. Photo from the Swedish magazine Charme 1931.

Johnny Bode (6 January 1912 in Falköping, Sweden – 25 July 1983 in Malmö, Sweden) was a Swedish singer, composer and enfant terrible.

After his debut at seventeen years old, Bode recorded hundreds of songs on the gramophone, many of them his own compositions. One of his best-known songs is "En herre i frack" (A Gentleman in Tailcoat), which Gösta Ekman (senior) sang in 1936. The song later become popularized by famous Swedish singer Jan Malmsjö, who added it to his repertoire. The last gramophone record with Johnny Bode as a singer was recorded in 1942. The life of Johnny Bode is one of the most amazing in the history of Swedish music. Over and over again, when his career was demolished, he was able to rise and build a new career, only to ruin it himself shortly after.

For the most part, Bode lived far more extravagantly than he was able to afford. He was a well-known figure in show business in those days, and was liked in the pubs because of his generous style. Even the fact that he was often broke didn't stop him. He was a master of sneaking out the back door and letting others pay his debts. Another distinguishing characteristic of Bode was his unmatched mythomania. Over and over again he lied to others, a personality flaw that blackened his career. He became good friends with Gösta Ekman and was almost like a son to him, until the day Ekman discovered that Bode had tried to sell their silverware set to a pawnbroker. Bode skipped out on countless hotel bills, and was blacklisted by several of Stockholm's finest restaurants. He was also involved in the theft of expensive carpets, and embezzlement through false checks.

Bode's out-of-control lifestyle many times led him into crime. After many cases of fraud, he was declared incapable, and put into psychiatric care in the mental hospital of St. Sigfrid in Växjö, Sweden. In connection with the diagnosis, he was sterilized.

Johnny Bode and the Nazi connection[edit]

Before World War II, Bode became fascinated by Nazism, which blacklisted him in Swedish show business for the rest of his life. Apparently, it was the combination of uniforms, marches, and pompous culture that enticed the childish Johnny. He was able to get permission from the mental hospital to travel to Finland, where he enlisted with the Nazis. However, the short, fat Bode soon became impossible and was sent home with an under-officer degree from the Nazi army.

No sooner was Bode back on Swedish soil than he started to ruin his career once again. By the time of his arrival 1942, resistance to Nazism was bigger than ever. When the famous Swedish actor Karl Gerhard played his strongly Nazi-critical cabaret "Tingel-Tangel" for the hundredth time, Bode showed up in his Nazi uniform, with his degrees on his shoulders and the Iron Cross highly visible on his chest. After that, he frequently wore the uniform on his occasional visits to Stockholm's nightclubs. As a result, the only friends he had ignored him, and he became blacklisted in the Swedish entertainment industry.

Shortly after that, Bode travelled to Norway, where he put up a cabaret for the Norwegian Quisling-regime. Bode promised gold and sunshine and lived a luxurious life in Oslo. Some of the songs he wrote during this period were seen in Sweden as critical of Sweden, especially the song "Har du hört vad Svensken sier" (NO: Have You Heard what the Swede's Saying?). This irritated the Swedish society and media even more. It was very hard for Bode to get in touch with actors who wanted to play in his cabaret, as nobody was willing to put their career at stake by appearing with Bode. Bode himself sang couplets and imitated Winston Churchill, to the great joy of Nazi sympathizers. After twenty-odd appearances, the show had to close due to lack of audience.

Once again, Bode was making himself unwelcome. He drank too much, was stealing and skipping out on bills again.[citation needed] Bode was even taken in by the Gestapo and was imprisoned in the Grini concentration camp from 22 December 1942 to 30 January 1943.[1] He was labeled a suspicious person due to his own claims to be a spy for the Swedish government, but by then his mythomania was so widely known that nobody believed him, and he was finally sent back to Sweden.

Later career[edit]

In the late '60s and early '70s, Bode recorded several pornographic comedy albums, with titles such as Bordellmammans visor ("The Brothel Madam's Songs"), Bordellmammans dotter ("The Brothel Madam's Daughter") and Sex-revyn Stig på ("The Sex Revue Step Inside"). He also released a gay-themed single in Swedish and German, with the songs "Vi är inte som andra, vi" ("We, we're not like the others") and "Achilles klagan" ("The lamentations of Achilles").

References[edit]

  1. ^ Giertsen, Børre R., ed. (1946). Norsk fangeleksikon. Grinifangene (in Norwegian). Oslo: Cappelen. p. 211. 

External links[edit]