Demis Roussos

Demis Roussos
Demis Roussos in Baku 2-cropped.jpg
Roussos in Baku, 2013
Background information
Birth name Artemios Ventouris-Roussos
Born (1946-06-15)15 June 1946
Alexandria, Egypt
Died 25 January 2015(2015-01-25) (aged 68)
Athens, Greece
Genres Pop, world music, pop-folk, soft rock, progressive rock, schlager
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass, trumpet
Years active 1963–2014
Labels Mercury, Philips
Associated acts Aphrodite's Child, Vangelis, the Idols

Artemios "Demis" Ventouris-Roussos[a] (/ˈrss/; 15 June 1946 – 25 January 2015) was an Egyptian-born Greek vocalist and performer who had an internationally acclaimed career, as a single recording artist and bandleader. As a band member he is best remembered for his work in the progressive rock music act Aphrodite's Child, but as a vocal soloist, his repertoire included hit songs like "Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye" and "Forever and Ever".

Roussos sold over 60 million albums worldwide[1] and became "an unlikely kaftan-wearing sex symbol".[2]

Early life

Roussos was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, in a Greek[3][4] family where his father George (Yorgos) Roussos was a classical guitarist and an engineer and his mother Olga was a singer; her family originally came from Greece.[3] As a child, he studied music and joined the Greek Church Byzantine choir in Alexandria.[5][6] His formative years in the ancient port city's cosmopolitan atmosphere were influenced by jazz, but also traditional Arab and Greek Orthodox music.[7] His parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis and consequently decided to move to Greece.[8]

Early musical career

After settling in Greece, Roussos participated in a series of musical groups beginning with the Idols when he was 17, where he met Evángelos Papathanassíou (later known as Vangelis) and Loukas Sideras, his future bandmates in Aphrodite's Child.[9] After this, he joined the Athens-based band We Five, another cover band which had limited success in Greece.[10]

Roussos came to a wider audience in 1967 when he joined progressive rock band Aphrodite's Child, with Vangelis and Loukas Sideras, initially as a singer but later also playing bass guitar, achieving commercial success in France and other parts of Europe from 1968 to 1972. They set off for London to break into the international music scene but were turned back at Dover due to visa problems. They retreated to Paris where they decided to stay, signing a record deal there with Philips Records. Their first recording sessions were delayed by the general strike of May 1968 but later the same year the song "Rain and Tears" was issued across Europe. The song appeared on the album End of the World in October. Composed by Vangelis and the French lyricist Boris Bergman, the song featured Roussos’s unusual high tenor. The song was only a minor hit in Britain but was successful in many other countries.[10] Roussos's operatic vocal style helped propel the band to international success, notably on their final album 666, based on passages from the Book of Revelation, which became a progressive rock cult classic.[10]

After Aphrodite's Child disbanded, Roussos continued to record sporadically with his former bandmate Vangelis. In 1970, the two released the film score album Sex Power (the album has also been credited to Aphrodite's Child), and later recorded the 1977 album Magic together. Their most successful collaboration was "Race to the End" (also sung in Spanish as "Tu Libertad"), a vocal adaptation of the musical theme from the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire (scored by Vangelis). Roussos also guested on Vangelis's soundtrack to Blade Runner (1982),[11] on the tracks "Tales of the Future", "Damask Rose", "Taffey's Snake Pit Bar", and "On the Trail of Nexus 6" (several only available in non-bootleg form on the 29th Anniversary Limited Edition CD set released in 2011).

Solo career

Roussos also began a solo career with the song "We Shall Dance" in 1971, which was a top ten hit in both the Netherlands and Belgium. Initially unsuccessful, he toured around Europe and became a leading artist. His solo career peaked in the mid 1970s with several hit albums.[11] His single "Forever and Ever" topped the charts in several countries in 1973. It was No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart in 1976.[5] Other hits by Roussos included "My Friend the Wind", "My Reason", "Velvet Mornings", "Goodbye My Love, Goodbye", "Someday Somewhere" and "Lovely Lady of Arcadia". His first UK single to chart was in 1975: "Happy to Be on an Island in the Sun" written by a Northern Irishman David Lewis with the record reaching No. 5 on the charts.[2] His popularity in the rest of Europe, but not the UK, came to fascinate BBC TV producer John King who made a documentary titled "The Roussos Phenomenon" in 1976. Philips Records released a four-song record of the same name, which was the first extended play to top the UK singles chart.[12] He was equally successful across Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Japan.[13]

In 1973, Roussos made one of his earliest television appearances on The Basil Brush Show[14] and also appeared on Nana Mouskouri's TV show in the UK.[12] In 1978 he had his only disco hit titled "L-O-V-E (Got A Hold Of Me)" in 1978. In 1980, he had a hit with a cover of Air Supply's "Lost in Love",[15] sung as a duet with Florence Warner.[16]

Roussos' run of hits was maintained in the 1980s mainly in France with a number two "Quand je t'aime" in 1988 and "On écrit sur les murs" in 1989, along with golden records for the albums Le Grec and Voice and Vision. Also his Christmas Album and Greatest Hits easily reached the gold status in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1989, he recorded the song "Young Love", a duet with German singer and songwriter Drafi Deutscher, which was released as a single in Germany and reached No. 2 on the German music TV show ZDF-Hitparade in October that year.[17]

The 1990s saw even more substantial releases by Roussos. In 1993, he released "Insight" (also called "Morning Has Broken") to general acclaim. After that he teamed up with BR Music in the Netherlands to produce "Immortel", "Serenade" and "In Holland".[18]

Roussos in Kiev, 2010

Roussos continued to record and tour. In 2002 he toured England when a "best of" collection he made, Forever and Ever – Definitive Collection, reached no. 17 on the UK Albums Chart,[2] although his voice was noted to have changed with "the trilling vibrato having evolved into a husky, and at times guttural, whisper."[19]

In more recent years he appeared in Russia and the United Arab Emirates.[citation needed] A committed follower of the Greek Orthodox faith, he sang as a guest in a number of churches in Greece and worldwide, including France.[12]

In 2006, he released Demis Roussos - Live in Brasil,[20] almost thirty years after "Você Você e Nada Mais", a Portuguese hit in 1977.[21] From 2006 to 2008, he was part of the Âge Tendre et Têtes de Bois tour, a series of concerts featuring French singers from the 1960s and 1970s.[22][23]

Roussos staged a comeback in 2009, wherein he recorded his final studio album, Demis, produced by Marc di Domenico, released on May 11.[24]

Just one month before his death, Roussos selected the tracks for an official CD compilation of his life's work, including notes by his two children Emily and Cyril. The CD, Demis Roussos Collected, was released in March 2015.[citation needed] It became a number one album in the Belgian album charts and reached number 61 in the Netherlands.

Michel Elefteriades

Demis Roussos collaborated with Michel Elefteriades on many songs which Elefteriades rearranged in an oriental fusion;[25] the project was called Demis Roussos & the Oriental Roots Orchestra.[26][27][28][29]

This project was first presented at the Mediterraneo Byblos Festival in  2001[30][31][32][33][34][35] and shortly after became an international success in the Arab world[36] later being staged again in Egypt and Qatar.

Elefteriades also composed, wrote and arranged the song "The Beast" for Roussos and directed the video for it.[37]

1985 TWA plane hijacking

In June 1985, Roussos was among the passengers of TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome, which was hijacked, by members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, but he was released along with four other Greeks after five days while most of the other hostages remained there for 17 days.[12][38] He spent his 39th birthday on the plane and when released unharmed, thanked his captors, at a press conference, for giving him a birthday cake.[39]

Illness and death

For years, Roussos struggled with his weight. In June 1980 he weighed 147 kilograms (23 st; 324 lb). He then began a diet in which he lost 50 kg (8 st; 110 lb) in 10 months.[40] In 1982 he co-authored the book A Question of Weight with his close friend photographer Veronique Skawinska, in which he dealt candidly with his struggles with obesity.[41]

Roussos died in the morning of 25 January 2015, from stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer and liver cancer while hospitalized at Ygeia Hospital in Athens, Greece. His death was confirmed a day later by a friend, the journalist Nikos Aliagas, who tweeted the news on 26 January 2015 in both Greek and French.[42][43] His death was also confirmed later on the same day by his daughter, who spoke to Greek and French media.

Fellow Greek singer Nana Mouskouri paid tribute to Roussos on the French radio station RTL, saying "He had a superb voice, he travelled in the world ... he loved what he was doing... He was an artist, a friend. I hope he is in a better world."[1]

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said: “This artist left a bright mark in the world music art and made history as one of the greatest singers whose extremely emotional manner of singing caught the hearts of listeners all over the world ..."[44]

Roussos' funeral was held at the First Cemetery of Athens, the burial place of many Greek politicians and cultural figures, on 30 January. The singer Mariza Koch said, "His was a voice which awakened emotions in people and honoured Greece wherever it reached. We bid farewell to Demis." Composer Giorgos Hatzinasios commented, "I can still hear his heartfelt laugh in my ears and I want to bid farewell to him with nostalgia and love."[45]

Personal life

Roussos was married three[46][47][48][49] or possibly four[50][51] times. He had a daughter, Emily, with his first wife, Monique. With his second wife, Dominique, he had a son, Cyril. Both of Roussos' children are musicians.[52][53] His third wife, the American model Pamela Smith, now Pamela Roussos-Rațiu (wife of the Romanian businessman Indrei Rațiu, married in 2004[54]), was with him during the 1985 TWA plane hijacking incident.[55] His fourth, and last, wife was a Parisian named Marie.[56]

Roussos listed Mozart and Sting among his favourite composers.[39]

In popular culture

Roussos is the subject of an argument between two main characters in Mike Leigh's 1977 play Abigail's Party. On the day of Roussos' death, the actress Alison Steadman was interviewed by BBC Radio 4's PM and discussed the significance of the music in the play.[57]

Roussos' main hit "Forever and Ever" was later spoofed by Kenny Everett on his television show.[citation needed]

On 15 June 2016 his children Emily and Cyril opened the Demis Roussos Museum in Nijkerk, The Netherlands. The museum will move to Athens in 2019, where it will be enhanced with new effects. This unique museum shows his life as a musician, singer and performer as well as the character he was as a private person, by photographs, memorabilia, awards etc. It was originally in the Netherlands because of the connection Roussos had from 1986 onwards with Dutch-based label BR Music.[citation needed]

The popular Bollywood song Mehbooba Mehbooba (from the film Sholay) is based on Roussos "Say you love me". In an interview, the director Ramesh Sippy narrated having heard Roussos at a concert in London. His wife asked him to incorporate this song into Sholay's music track. Pancham (R. D. Burman) used empty bottles as a part of the music in this Indianised version of the song.[58]

Roussos is mentioned in the song The Truce of Twilight, which appears on the album Merrie Land by Damon Albarn's supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen.

Discography

Among Demis Roussos's most famous songs are "We Shall Dance" (released as a single in 1971), "My Reason" (1972), "Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye", "Velvet Mornings", "My Friend the Wind", "Lovely Lady of Arcadia" (1973), "Someday Somewhere" (1974), "My Only Fascination" (1974), "From Souvenirs to Souvenirs" (1975)

Studio albums

Filmography