Songwriter and poet Hans Roelli (1889-1962), a native of Lucerne, was born in Willisau and raised in Zurich. He worked as an alpine herdsman, a skiing instructor and a spa manager. It was only after 1940 that he was able to devote himself to his calling as a poet and singer.
Hans Roelli's historical significance beyond Switzerland's borders is rooted in his popular image as one of the forefathers of song writing. In the circle formed by the Wandervögel (an early German youth movement) including Berthold Brecht and Hanns In der Gand at the beginning of the 20th century, he helped mould the way songs were composed and performed in a folk style on the guitar. His 1,000-plus songs, lyrics and performance merge to convey, in his words, a message. He did not venture to use other musical forms.
His playing was later accurately transcribed for the guitar. The singer was entirely self-taught and – consciously or unconsciously – never learned to read music. Others performed that task for him.
It is easy to forget that Hans Roelli left behind not only his songs, but also an extensive oeuvre comprising of poetical prose and lyrics.
The music library possesses an almost complete collection of printed works together with their associated secondary literature.