Zetterlund died on Friday in a fire in her apartment. Physically hindered by scoliosis, she contacted emergency authorities but was unable to exit the apartment before it was overtaken by the fire.
Born in 1937, her career spanned decades as she continued to entertain through song, film and theatre. She began singing with her father’s band at the tender age of 14 and became one of Sweden’s great jazz singers, with a voice described by culture minister Leif Pagrotsky as soft, a little salty, and not altogether harmless.
Most Swedes will remember her for her cover rendition of Nat King Cole’s Walking My Baby Back Home (Stockholm Sakta vi gå genom stan), but she also endeared herself to the Swedish public through her acting roles in TV and film.
According to Pagrotsky, it was her “unique blend of sadness and humour” that settled deep within the souls of the Swedish people. Others remember Zetterlund’s colourful spirit as well. Arne Domnérus, one of Sweden’s great band leaders, says he was always puzzled by her honest humility, the way that she always doubted her true abilities. That view was also mirrored by Tom Alandh, a documentary filmmaker who also helped Zetterlund write her memoirs:
”She was a singer, revue artist and actress – completely unique. Nonetheless, she was so bloody uncertain of her own abilities,” he said.
Outside Sweden, Zetterlund will mainly be remembered through her collaboration with the renowned jazz pianist, Bill Evans, when they recorded Waltz for Derby, still one of today’s great jazz albums. But many Swedes have their own special memory of her. It could be her songs, it could be her TV series, or it might even be her colourful revue and cabaret characters.