Sonya Hedenbratt was a charismatic jazz singer and variety-show artist.
Sonya Hedenbratt grew up in Masthugget in Gothenburg. During her youth she worked at the Merkur shirt factory. In 1957 she married the pianist Ingmar (Bidde) Bolin, and their daughter Lena was born the following year in 1958.
Sonya Hedenbratt made her debut at the Gothenburg dancehall called Kungshall, with her brother Östen, who was five years her senior, playing the piano. She was only 17 years old at the time and her cover of Billie Holiday’s ‘Lover Man’ went down very well with the public. She soon began to perform at other dancehalls in the town such as Rotundan at Liseberg and Wauxhall at Första Långgatan. In 1951 she gained a lot of attention after winning a singing competition and being selected as the Doris Day of Gothenburg. However, she herself – and rightly so – rather compared herself to Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
Her career then took off. Sonya Hedenbratt made her way to Stockholm to appear at Nalen alongside major stars such as Arne Domnérus and Simon Brehm. It was not long before she returned to Gothenburg, however, where she lived for the rest of her life, albeit her career and fame spread nationwide. Her husky, pitch perfect, and slightly aggressive voice made her not just the darling of Gothenburg but of all of Sweden. She performed in many of the best variety shows and cabaret shows of the era. During the 1960s she collaborated with Hasse and Tage and appeared in variety shows such as the 1963 Konstgjorda Pompe, and Gula Hund in 1964. She also acted in the 1964 film Svenska bilder, and in Beppe Wolger’s Farfars barnbarn in 1963, and Farfars gladbarn in 1965. From the end of the 1960s onwards she also appeared in a variety of popular tv-shows. For example, she was a central character in the new series Partaj which was launched in 1969 and in which a range of Swedish celebrities, including Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt, Margarea Sjödin, and Lars Ekborg, also appeared.
She was popular with the vast majority of people mainly for her work with Sten-Åke Cederhök. They performed at Valand and toured the public parks, put on variety shows at Lisebergshallen and at Berns in Stockholm, and they performed the classic revue-shows ‘Jubel i busken’ and ‘Låt hjärtat va’ me’’. The former included the song ‘Sofie Propp’ and Sonya Hedenbratt entered Svensktoppen (Swedish charts) with it in 1969. This song, along with ‘Låt hjärtat va’ me’’, gave her a place in the canon of Swedish music. She also acted in various tv-productions and films. Her last such role was as Aunt Emma in Ingmar Bergman’s major film Fanny och Alexander.
Above all, Sonya Hedenbratt was a live artist. Unlike many of her contemporaries she did not focus on the record industry. She did not release her first proper jazz album until 1978. In 1989 she gathered some of her friends and recorded My best friends and in 1992 she released the Gothenburg-based album Mamma Blå with lyrics by Viveca Lärn. Several of Sonya Hedenbratt’s albums are recordings of various performances. The website Youtube carries a rich selection of her performances, including the classical tribute to Gothenburg from the variety show Knô daj in.
Sonya Hedenbratt died in 2001. She is buried at the Östra cemetery in Gothenburg.