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“Tschou zäme, es isch schön gsy!” (Bye, everyone, it’s been nice!) With these words, Polo Hofer bade us farewell in his official death notice. It was a fitting goodbye, regardless of whether Polo penned it or not. Despite all his passion and seriousness, this unconventional singer always took a laid-back attitude to life. Now he has fearlessly taken a step into the hereafter, whatever that may bring. “I’m not afraid of dying,” he said in one of his last interviews. “I’m curious to find out what’ll happen.”
Bernese-born Hofer started his career in the 60s as a singing drummer in a soul band. But his big breakthrough came in the following decade when he, his band Rumpelstilz and the classic song “Kiosk” introduced the world to dialect rock. He was the first to prove that you could break into the pop charts with Swiss-German texts. That may be taken for granted nowadays, but in the 70s it was a complete novelty.
Polo Hofer remained the undisputed authority on dialect rock for the rest of his life. He founded the Schmetterband, then Polo’s Schmetterding. His song “Alperose” became a timeless classic performed in dialect. In 2006, TV viewers voted it “the greatest Swiss hit of all time”.
It seemed Polo Hofer would always be around. But on 22 June, at the age of 72, the singer lost his long drawn-out battle with cancer. Switzerland mourned its national hero and was discomfited by the realisation that it must somehow get by without this pioneering spirit. That in itself will take some getting used to.
Yes, it really was nice. Tschou, Polo!