Thursday, May 4, 2017

Demis Roussos (1946 - 2015)

Artemios Ventouris Roussos was born in 1946 in Alexandria, Egypt. His parents were expatriate Greeks and his father was an engineer and mother, an actress. Demis was a pet name for the young Artemois was brought up in the middle of the Muslim city and from early childhood exposed to both Byzantine and Arabic influences. Attracted to singing, he sang with the choir of the Greek Byzantine Church and became a soloist for five years. Demis learnt how to play guitar and trumpet and studied musical theory. After the Suez Crisis in 1961 his parents returned to Greece. Teenager Demis was mad about music and formed his first band, The Idols when was 17. He switched to We Five and they had limited success in Greece but not before Demis demonstrated a fine pair of lungs and perfect pitch. He started as a fill in but soon became a regular crooner as the group performed to the hotel guests in Athens. During this time he met many musicians including Vangelis Papathanassiou (Forminx). Agyrilos Koulouris and Loukas Sideras decided to form a group with Demis and Vangelis. The group was called Aphrodite's Child and soon had a recording contract. "Plastics Nevermore" and "The Other People" were released by Phonogram in Greece.

These were enthusiastically received in London and Paris and the lads were invited to London. However things did not go quite so well for Aphrodite Child. Agyrilos Koulouris had drafted into the army, so they became a trio. The group members could not get work visas and were refused entry into the UK. They ended up in Paris where Phonogram's producer Pierre Sberro recorded their single "Rain And Tears".

Demis’s distinctive operatic vocal style gave the band a unique sound which quickly established them as international favorites. Other hits followed, ‘End of the world’, ‘I want to live’ ("Plaisir d'Amour"), "Let Me Love Let Me Live"/ "Marie Jolie", ‘It’s five o’clock’, and ‘Spring, summer, winter and fall’, and Aphrodite’s Child became the number one band in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and Italy.

Vangelis was dissatisfied with the group’s direction and wanted to concentrate on more serious music that would appeal to the English and American markets. The band broke up in 1971 and Demis continued with Phonogram as a solo artist. The success of his first single ‘We shall dance’ was dwarfed by the second, ‘Forever and Ever’ in 1973.

In the same year Demis went to South America and the won thousands of fans who snapped up his recordings. ‘My friend the wind’, ‘Lovely sunny days’, ‘My reason’, ‘When I was a kid’, ‘Goodbye my love, goodbye’, ‘Velvet Mornings’, ‘Lovely Lady of Arcadia’, ‘My friend the wind’ were all hits and came from the same album, Forever and ever.

Demis was popular in Europe, South America and Canada and re-records many of his songs in a number of languages. Although he has gold disc for the 'Demis' album in the US, he remains less popular with North American audiences. Demis and Vangelis continued to work together with their best known collaboration, a vocal adaptation of the musical theme from the Oscar winning film Chariots of Fire called, Race to the End (1981).

Demis did a tour of Australia and New Zealand and released a compilation album entitled "The Roussos Phenomenon.” Throughout the early eighties he continued to entertain and record with many chart successes including a duet with Florence Warner, "Lost in Love" (1980).

The cover version of Harry Nilsson's "The Wedding Song" became a big hit in France and Italy, and "Sorry" (written by Francis Rossi and Bernie Frost of Status Quo) sold well in the UK.

In 1981 Demis recorded with Vicky Leandros and the single came out as a single in Holland and Switzerland.

For the next couple of years Demis became depressed and worried about his weight and his career came to a halt. In 1985 the singer was involved in a plane hijack and help captive in Beirut for a short time. He was released unharmed but felt the need to get back into his work and recorded the single "Island Of Love" (1986) and its successor, "Summerwine."

Both sold well and convinced Demis he was back on track. Dance of Love enjoyed a popular run in the discothèques and introduced the singer to a new set of fans.

The influence of Demis’s music in Indian films is quite apparent with some of his songs rehashed and included in film soundtracks. Demis continued his career with many tours but since the millennium change he began to guest in a number of churches. Demis Roussos was a committed follower of the Greek Orthodox faith and died on 25th January 2015 after a sudden illness.

Worth a listen
We shall dance (1971)
My Reason (1971)
Forever and Ever’ (1973)
My Friend the Wind
Velvet Mornings
Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye
Lovely Lady of Arcadia
Someday Somewhere
My Only Fascination
Sing an Ode to Love
From Souvenirs to Souvenirs
Happy to Be on an Island in the Sun
Mourir Auprès de Mon Amour
Ainsi Soit-Il
Lost in Love

Aphrodite Child
Plastics Nevermore
The Other People
Rain And Tears (1968)
End of the world (1969)
It’s five o’clock (1970)
Spring, summer, winter and fall’ (1970)

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