Björk Guðmundsdóttir was born November 21, 1965 in Reykjavík, Iceland. She is best known for her expressive range and an interest in many kinds of music, including pop, alternative rock, jazz, ambient music, electronica, folk, and classical music.
Björk usually goes by her first name only. This is not a stage name or affectation; it is normal for an Icelander to be referred to by his or her first name, as the last name simply indicates the name of the father (or occasionally the mother). See Icelandic naming conventions.
Björk means "a birch tree" in Icelandic . Though many English-speakers pronounce her name "Byork," a more accurate approximation would be "Byirk," which she has pointed out rhymes with "jerk." Guðmundsdóttir is pronounced roughly "GVUTH-muns-doh-tear", and means "Guðmundur's daughter".
Although many have commented on her East Asian/Inuit facial features (she was teased as a child with the taunt 'China girl'), Björk denies any such ancestry.
Björk's musical career began when she was 11. One of her instructors sent a recording of Björk singing Tina Charles' song "I Love to Love" to RÚV, then the only radio station in Iceland. The recording was broadcast on radio nationally; after hearing it, a representative of the record label Fálkinn contacted Björk to offer a record contract.
In her teens Björk was influenced by punk rock; at 14 she formed the all-girl punk band Spit and Snot, shortly followed by a jazz fusion group Exodus in 1979. In 1980 she graduated from music school. In 1981 she and bassist Jakob Magnússon formed another band called Jam-80, which later became Tappi Tíkarrass (which means "Cork the Bitch’s Arse" in Icelandic), and released an extended single, "Bítið Fast í Vítið" in the same year. Their next album, Miranda, was released in 1983.
Afterward Björk collaborated with Einar Örn Benediktsson and Einar Melax from Purrkur Pillnikk, and Guðlaugur Óttarsson, Sigtryggur Baldursson and Birgir Mogensen from Þeyr. After writing songs and rehearsing for two weeks, the new band, KUKL ("sorcery" in Iceland), worked well together, developing a sound described as Gothic rock. Björk began to show indications of her trademark singing style, which was punctuated by howls and shrieks.
The band was eventually dissolved, in part due to the closure of their label, Gramm. In the summer of 1986, several members of KUKL and the surrealist group Medusa got together to create the arts collective Smekkleysa (Bad Taste). They created a musical division, a band called KUKL but soon changed the name to The Sugarcubes. Smekkleysa and the Sugarcubes were officially started on the same day as the birth of Björk's son, Sindri.The Sugarcubes' first single, "Ammæli" (or "Birthday" in English), became a surprise hit in the UK after being declared single of the week by Melody Maker. The Sugarcubes were immediately signed up by One Little Indian, the new bedroom label set up by Derek Birkett, the former bass player of Flux of Pink Indians. They gained a cult following in the US and UK, and calls from larger record companies began coming in. They rejected all these offers, and instead chose to have complete creative control over vast sums of money by remaining with a friend's label. Even today, Björk remains on this label.
The Sugarcubes also signed a distribution deal with Elektra Records in the United States, and recorded their first album, Life's Too Good, in 1988. Its release propelled them into international stardom — an unprecedented success for an Icelandic rock band. While with the Sugarcubes, Björk participated in several side projects.
She recorded Gling-Gló, a collection of popular jazz and original work, with the jazz group Trio Guðmundar Ingólfssonar, released in Iceland. Björk Guðmundsdóttir & Tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar was an Icelandic jazz and bebop music band. The band formed in 1990 when the Björk was still with The Sugarcubes, joined the Tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar (Guðmundur Ingólfsson on piano, Guðmundur Steingrímsson (a.k.a. Papa Jazz) on drums and Þórður Högnason on bass). Björk also contributed vocals to 808 State's album Ex:el, with whom she cultivated her interest in house music. The song "Ooops" was released as a single in the UK and was later included on 808 State's best of, "808:88:98". In 1992 The Sugarcubes dissolved as conflicting ambitions split the band; they went into an indefinite hiatus to avoid risking their friendship.
Björk and her partner, artist Matthew Barney, have a daughter, Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney, born October 3, 2002. Björk also has a son, Sindri Eldon Þórsson, born June 8, 1986, with Þór Eldon, who was her bandmate in the Sugarcubes. Sindri is a journalist and plays bass for several bands at present.