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Dialect singer Swiss rock star Polo Hofer dies

Polo Hofer was one of Switzerland's most popular entertainers


Legendary Swiss rock star Urs ‘Polo’ Hofer has died after a battle with lung cancer. Hofer was a key figure in the ‘Mundartrock’ scene, composing a string of hits in Swiss-German dialect with his bands Rumpelstilz and Schmetterband.

Hofer, who continued performing until shortly before his death aged 72, was also an author, poet, actor and voracious Twitter user. The public voted him as ‘Swiss of the Year’ for 2015 at the annual Swiss Awards show.

Hofer, from Interlaken in canton Bern, wrote a farewell Twitter message in Swiss-German shortly before his death on Saturday. “I say goodbye everybody, it was nice. On Saturday, July 22, shortly before midnight I lived my last hours and I am happy to go to sleep at home.”

Hofer is credited with introducing pop songs sung in Swiss-German dialect in the early 1970s. Until that point, Swiss pop and rock bands largely imitated American and British groups. It said he was inspired by folk singer Mani Matter – a local legend in his own right – but his first song in dialect, with his band Rumpelstilz, ‘Warehuus (Warehouse) Blues’, borrowed heavily from Bob Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’. 

Thanks to Hofer, singing in dialect became acceptable for new bands, even if it was never a ticket to success.

His 350 songs, which spanned a five-decade long career, included the hits Kiosk and Teddybär.

Swiss Culture Minister Alain Berset paid tribute to the popular star for bringing Swiss-German dialect and rock music together “like no other”. “He showed different generations from all language regions in Switzerland how much power, how much spirit, how much poetry exists in the Bernese dialect,” Berset stated.

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