The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Mårten Falk

by Anna Johansen, Gy2

How does a man who survived a sinking boat, got expelled from school at the age of twelve, and avoided military service nonetheless become a prominent, internationally recognised musician? World-renowned guitarist Mårten Oskar Falk –– who also makes music-history programs for Swedish Radio and teaches guitar and music history –– has accomplished more in his 42 years than than most people do in a lifetime.

The young Mårten Falk

At the age of three, young Mårten Falk became hooked on Elvis Presley when he saw a TV show featuring Elvis and his guitar. From then Falk’s future as a guitarist was certain. He even wanted to look just like Elvis… but unfortunately Elvis died just after Falk’s fourth birthday, and by the time he grew up Elvis was nothing but a memory.

Shockingly though, Mårten’s life might have ended before Elvis’s. 1976 was an adventurous year in Mårten’s life because not only did he become spellbound by the guitar’s mesmerising sound, he almost drowned. Mårten, his mom and a dear friend of hers were boating in the Baltic sea when the boat for some reason sprung a leak. As the boat quickly sank, the three of them were left alone in the middle of the night in freezing water. Through sheer true luck, Falk’s mom, her friend, and Mårten Falk himself swam by accident to Öland and survived. Falk tells this story with a smile and laughs about the horrible disco outfit with sparkly platforms shoes his mom was given by a very fashionable woman when they came ashore on Öland.

Falk was raised by a single mom. Until he was seven they lived in a commune in Nacka, together with two other woman, two men, and three other children. Falk became close to one of the men, who was a music critic for the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet. He introduced Mårten to many LPs, which prepared Mårten for a future career in music.

Just before Falk started school he moved to Vadstena, a small town in Östergötland, and he attended elementary school there. But things weren’t easy for Falk: in the sixth grade this aspiring punk artist with a shaved head, wearing cherries as earrings, got expelled from school.

Falk shows a photo of himself as a youngster with cherry earrings.

“I got involved in every fight I could” Falk says. In fact he was so extreme Sveriges Radio made a radio program about how rowdy he was.

But by the time Falk attended community college, though, he had put his punk-past behind him. Instead he was fully concentrated on his studies, and spent hours every day practicing his guitar.

To pass or fail a driving test?

On thing Falk wants to warn others from doing is this: if you agree to take part in a TV­ show which features people who have trouble getting their driver license, make sure the show is not shown on national television the night before your fifth driving test.

Falk had had great difficulty passing the driving test, as had his father and grandfather before him. This qualified him for the TV­ show “Not everyone can get a driver licence”. The problem was, he was scheduled to take his fifth test the day after the show aired! Wearing fake glasses and his hair combed differently, Falk prayed his examiner had missed the show, or that she wouldn’t recognise him even if she had seen it. Luckily he passed on his fifth try, and today Falk has a driver license.

Mårten Falk today

Mårten Falk is now married and has a ten year-old daughter. When I asked about her he happily showed me his mobile phone’s home screen with them doing the same funny face.

Nowadays Mårten Falk now travels around the world with his guitar, makes music-history programs for Swedish Radio, and teaches in Stockholm.

“The most important thing is to have fun during my lessons,” he says with a smile when I asked how he feels about teaching as I packed up my things after the interview at 7 p.m. on a Friday evening.

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