Björn’s former bandmate in the Hootenanny Singers, Hansi Schwarz has died this week, aged 70, after a long battle with cancer.
In a personal reflection for the regional Swedish newspaper Västerviks-Tidningen, Björn writes movingly of what Hansi meant to him and how much he will miss him.
Björn: “One summer a long, long time ago, Hansi stood by my side with his guitar and together we sang the words, “There is something beyond the mountains, beyond the flowers and the singing…
“Omkring tiggarn från Luossa was probably our biggest hit and when I squeezed his gnarled, thin hand for the last time a few days ago at the hospital in Lund, I came to think of the lines. And I thought how wonderful it would be if he, the fading little man so long my friend, could take up the words now and find comfort in them.”
Björn Ulvaeus, Hansi Schwarz, Tony Roth and Johan Karlberg formed the Hootenanny Singers in 1961. Their first single released in 1963, Jag väntar vid min mila, became an immediate hit and they went on to have 40 songs on the Swedish charts.
In an SVT documentary recorded last Autumn, Hansi said he believed the reason for the Hootenanny Singers’ success was probably because they contradicted everything that was happening musically in the 1960s. “The Beatles dominated the world music scene, whilst in Sweden, bands such as the Tages and Hepstars were popular within the dance genre. The Hootenanny Singers brought folk poetry to popular music with vocal harmonies.” he said.
In November, Björn and Hansi, along with the third remaining original band member Tony Roth, were reunited as guests of honour at a Hootenanny’s tribute concert by the band Östen med Resten, in Lund. They sat together in the front row and afterwards when they took the stage, Hansi told the packed auditorium: “I cannot believe that this is happening, I just screamed when I found out that someone was taking on our songs and doing a show with our music.”
Of Hansi’s death, Björn wrote: “I was not prepared for the cold feeling of loneliness I felt when I received the news. Emptiness and regret for Hansi, but also for something else. It’s as if he represented the notion of youth more than anyone else, and now that he is no longer here it appears that youth slips even more into the haze of the past. Like when Kristina from the stern of the brig Charlotta sees the last glimpse of her homeland disappear in the morning mist.
“During his last days I often thought about what it would be like when he was no longer here. What would a summer in Västervik be without Hansi Schwarz? I found it was impossible to imagine, just as it was impossible to walk past him when he was alive. He was the sort of person you could not ignore. If I ever get up on stage again at Visfestivalens he will stand beside me and maybe he will sing: ‘There is something beyond the mountains …'”