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Demis Roussos Biography

The Roussos had been in Egypt for two generations and on 15 June 1946 Artemios Venturis Roussos was born in Alexandria. His mother, Olga, and his father, George, both of Greek extraction, had also been born in the country their parents had come to in the 1920s. Following the Greek custom, the baby was named after his paternal grandfather, Demis being a pet name for Artemios. In the heart of an orthodox community, he lived in the middle of a Muslim city. From his early childhood he was immersed in folk music, exposed to Byzantine and Arabic influences. Attracted to singing, he joined the choir of the Greek Byzantine Church with which he sang for five years as a soloist. At the same time he studied musical theory and learnt how to play the guitar and the trumpet. Everything was going well when the Suez crisis blew up in 1961. Residents in Egypt had to leave the country and the Roussos – Mr Roussos was an engineer with a property construction company – returned to their native land, Greece. At the age of 17, with only music in his head and to the great disappointment of his mother who was hoping to send him to the best school in Athens, Demis formed his first band, ‘The Idols’, in which he played guitar and bass. At that time the band members were his cousin Jo, Natis Lalaitis, Nikos Tsiloyan and Anthony. A chance happening meant that one day Demis had to replace the group’s singer for a short time and he sang an Afro-American spiritual, ‘The house of the rising sun’, and another popular success of the time, ‘When a man loves a woman’. The public was immediately won over by his voice. Overcome by a great desire for independence, he began to feel the need to take control of his own life. Henceforth, bands and clubs became part of his daily life. Meeting Lucas Sideras and Argyris Koulouris lead him to play the international successes of the moment in clubs and night- clubs. The great turning point of his musical career was his meeting with Vangelis Papathanassiou in the summer of 1966. One particular song introduced Vangelis to demis’ unique voice. Within his group he began to sing more and more often, frequently as a soloist. However, a few meetings with Vangelis did take place. These young musicians, cut off from the international music scene, soon realised that an interesting career could only be accomplished outside their country.

Demis singing in the street


Demis left his group and began to practice new songs with Vangelis. At the end of March 1968, Lucas and Demis took the train to London. Vangelis was supposed to join them a few days later. Fate decided otherwise. When they arrived in Dover, at the English border, with no work permits, customs officers discovered photos and tapes in their luggage and quickly realised what their true intentions were. The young musicians cut short their journey. Back in Paris, trapped by the circumstances, their savings melted away day by day. Unable to leave Paris where unrest was brewing, only a recording could get them out of a tight spot. They learnt that Phonogram was holding an international conference and, plucking up all the courage they could find, they went to meet with the executives and explained their situation. A draconian contract, which promised exclusivity for six years, was drawn up. Confronted by the necessity to get by, they signed the contract and were able to begin recording. Their dream was at last coming true. It was in the 4m² cellar near the Porte d’Italie where they practised that ‘Rain and tears’, composed by Vangelis, was born. The lyrics were written by Boris Bergman, a young song-write introduced to them by the record company. The recording of the single took place in extremis in rather unusual circumstances. The following day the studio closed due to the general strike. A few weeks later ‘Rain and Tears’ was number one in the charts. They had made a hit! They themselves saw very little difference in what they were doing but they began to receive proposals for concerts and they were swept up in success. In June a week of performing at Olympia as Sylvie Vartan’s opening act was a real success. They spent the summer in the clubs of the South of France. Their success continued to grow. Hundreds of thousands of copies of their first album were sold and demis’ fantastic voice brought them a great many more successes with ‘It’s five o’clock’, ‘I want to live’, ‘End of the world’ and ‘Spring, summer, winter and fall’. These five hit singles were accompanied by two albums, one of which became number one. The group climbed to number one in Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and Italy… ‘Aphrodite’s Child’ lasted for two years. They made 239 television appearances over this period. Demis married Monique with whom he had a daughter, Emilie. Vangelis however was dissatisfied. He wanted a more serious music, more like the music he composed alone. He wished to confront the English and American markets, to stop touring and devote his time to studio work. The recording of the double album ‘666’, based on the texts of Saint John’s Apocalypse, was the materialisation of this desire for change. It was a critical moment for the group: after three months of costly recording, the record company panicked. The break-up of the group became inevitable after a heated argument between Vangelis and Lucas. In the end it was Vangelis alone who, one year later, finished the album which was seen at the time as a classical masterpiece. Supported by the record company Phonogram, Demis began a solo career.

Demis & his guitar player

Demis Roussos GOES SOLO

Inspired by the numerous folk themes in his head and using the sounds and instruments of pop music Demis fulfilled his dream. Two months in the studio were required to complete this first LP. He composed some of the melodies and conceived some of the arrangements. Named ‘Fire and Ice’, love, life and death are its major components. This twelve track album was released in 1971. Demis was already no longer totally unknown, his first single, ‘We shall dance’, having been one of the biggest hits of summer 1971 not only in France, but all over Europe. His international career took off straightaway. 1972 was a year of travelling. Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany welcomed him. In June ‘My Reason’ was released and for several weeks Demis was once again at the top of the singles’ charts in France. In September he achieved national consecration with a performance at Olympia that revealed his talent. His vocal potential was fantastic and his stage presence extraordinary. In front of 30 000 people he performed ‘Velvet Morning’, a song composed specially for the occasion by Lakis Vlavianos, a Greek born in Athens on 7 July 1947. He composed most of demis’ songs, ‘My friend the wind’, ‘Someday, somewhere’… Accompanist and conductor, he played the organ, Melotron and Moog Synthesizer. A trip to South America lead to a big tour in 1973, the year which saw the release of his second album, ‘Forever and ever’ comprising songs that would nearly all become great hits just like ‘Forever and ever’, ‘My friend the wind’, ‘Lovely sunny days’, ‘My reason’, ‘When I was a kid’, ‘Goodbye my love, goodbye’… Two million records had already been sold in one year of solo career and the Demis Roussos phenomenon was only just beginning. That year I heard a lot about him on the radio and I often listened to old Aphrodite’s Child records and to my great surprise I learnt that he was going to give a recital in my home town as the opening act for Joe Dassin. That was my first meeting with Demis. Until then I had never seen him on stage but he was in my imagination, omnipresent, all-powerful. His entrance was announced by an instrumental from his orchestra, a mixture of Wagnerian and Byzantine music added to by an impressive sound system. Demis appeared on stage. His stature was impressive, his long tousled beard flowing like a prophet’s, lightning in his eyes, his smile confident and satisfied. Demis, the Pope of pop, with the physique, the majestic gestures, the lofty allure, appeared shrouded in a cloud of smoke. That night he mixed a harmonious cocktail of both Greek and Byzantine music with sublime nuances. Steeped in this music, the public was captivated by his technical perfection. Demis Roussos had a musical style without improvisation, full of finesse and beauty. On stage the colours were perfectly matched to the music: tender, gentle, nothing aggressive. One of the songs, the unknown ‘Thousand years of wondering’, lasted six minutes. Composed by Lakis Vlavianos, it fluctuated between Bach, Led Zeppelin and the Yardbirds. This fantastic recital ended with a journey through Greece with ‘My reason’. His music moved the public, stirring in peoples’ hearts the strange charm procured by religious chants and the aggressive rhythm of Arabic chants. People let themselves be overcome by his extraordinary voice. It was at that moment that I personally became a ...

Fan of Demis

Acquiring here and there all the records already released, from this point in time I collected all the documentation I could about Demis and in this way I learnt a great deal despite being puzzled by certain articles! In 1973 I attempted to visit him in Neuilly-sur-Seine where he had an apartment. Unfortunately he was away and I later learnt that, in fact, he only spent a few nights there each year. During the same year, I had the chance to meet him at a gala, to be present at the sound rehearsal and to get an autograph. It was my first real meeting with Demis Roussos. 1974 saw Demis triumph in Germany, release his new album, ‘My only fascination’, and start up his own newspaper, Demis Roussos News, intended for his friends all around the world. This first review was a chance for Demis to take stock of the last three years of his career spent as a solo artist. We learn that in 1000 days he gave 380 concerts in 18 countries, flew 400 000 km by plane, travelled 100 000 km by car, took part in 120 television programmes, in 180 radio programmes, in three singing festivals, in M.I.D.E.M. ’73, recorded 40 songs, including 3 albums requiring 600 hours of studio time, received 15 gold discs and sold nearly 9 million records…In their private life, the Roussos wanted to create a real home. They bought a house in Maisons-Laffitte, just outside Paris. Wishing to add his personal touch, Demis ended up having everything renovated. The specialised press got hold of the story. After two years redecoration, the house was at last ready. It was a superb dwelling, all white in 1930’s style inspired by American colonial houses. On the programme for 1975 were five 45 day tours on five continents. The rest of his time was devoted to preparing a double album which he had been thinking about for over a year. It was a two hour show, the first part with famous songs such as ‘My Reason’, ‘Forever and ever’ and ‘Goodbye my love, goodbye’ and the second part inspired by Homer. Certain musical passages were composed by Manos Hadjidakis and the lyrics were written all in English by several different authors, including Constandinos and Boris Bergman. Unfortunately, this work, which should have been released on LP, never saw the light of day. 1975 was also a year marked by a happy event. On Monday 15 September 1975 the little boy so long awaited by Demis and his wife Dominique was born at 3:35 in the morning. The proud father saw in Cyril the continuation of the Roussos’ name. The album ‘Souvenirs’ was released in France followed in 1976 by ‘Happy to be’. 1976 was also the year that Demis toured England and released the LP ‘The Roussos Phenomenon’ followed in 1977 by his first album in French, ‘Ainsi soit-il’. In 1977 the album ‘demis Roussos Magic’ was also released in France. More than 30 million records had already been sold worldwide. However, keeping up a palace from which he rarely benefited, Demis decided to go to Monaco and his family moved there that same year. On 5 December he began several days of recitals at the Olympia Stadium in Paris. 1978 saw the release of the album entitled ‘demis Roussos’ which was recorded in America. In June 1979 the Roussos settled near Malibu where they rented a magnificent villa by the sea. The album ‘Universum’, recorded in French, German, Italian, Spanish, was released and became extremely successful in Latin America.

A new album, ‘Man of the world’, was released on 19 May 1980 and took Demis to the top of the charts. It included his new single, ‘Lost in love’, which had been released in England and the Netherlands, and also ‘I need you’, released as a single in France, Italy and Spain. This new album included songs from Barry Mann, Harry Nilsson, Francis Rossi and several other artists from the world of pop. The songs were a success. ‘Lost in love’ was successful in England, the Netherlands and Belgium. ‘Sorry’ was also a hit in England, as was ‘I need you’ in France, Italy and Spain. ‘San Pedro’s Children’, with ‘Sorry’ on the B-side, was released in Germany after ‘Lost in love’. The album ‘Man of the world’ came out in four different versions. Side 1 of the French version comprising ‘Man of the world’, ‘Slacham dance’, ‘Lost in love’, ‘Miss you nights’, ‘Little girl’, ‘I need you’, ‘I’d give my life’. Side 2 comprising ‘Sorry’, ‘Had to run’, ‘San Pedros children’, ‘The wedding song’, ‘Love is away’, ‘We’re over’. In England, idem except that on side 2 ‘How glad I arn yoy oem’ replaces ‘Had to run’. In Spain ‘Sonora’, the Spanish version of ‘I need you’, is to be found on side 1 and ‘Cançion de boda’ instead of ‘Wedding song’ on side 2. In Italy ‘Credo’ replaces ‘I need you’ on side 1 and ‘Nascera’ (‘Highway home’) replaces ‘Had to run’ on side 2. Released in almost every country in the world, the album was produced by David McKay.

Demis singing, happy face


In June 1980 Demis weighed in at 147kg. Stop! He had already tried a diet in 1979 in an attempt to lose weight. At last he found the one that suited him best. In June 1980 he began his diet in earnest. The result surprised more than a few. In ten months he lost 50kg. Meanwhile, in September he gave a few galas in England in the clubs around London followed by a tour in Argentina in October. In Italy he was awarded a gold disc after selling 150 000 copies of his album ‘Universum’. At the end of February 1981, Demis was in France. He took part in the ‘Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale’ in Cannes and appeared in a special televised show, ‘Le Palmarès des chansons’, during which he sang ‘Forever and ever’, ‘My reason’ and numerous other older titles. He concluded with his latest single, ‘Si j’étais roi de la Terre’, produced by Alec Constandinos. In Rouen he participated in an RTL radio show with Michel Drucker. A new single, ‘Race to the end’, was released. It was composed, arranged and produced by Vangelis Papathanassiou using texts by Jon Anderson. It is a vocal adaptation of the film ‘Chariots of fire’. It was released in England on 16 March 1981 but the rest of the world had to wait until the end of March or April. The new album, ‘Race to the end’, was recorded in May and June 1981 and produced in August. With Vangelis, Demis recorded the French version of ‘Race to the end’ and another song which he would produce in France. After a tour of Australia, from 17 June to 16 July 1981, he began a new grand tour of Europe from 16 November to 15 December 1981 with 27 concerts, six in England, the others in Holland, Belgium, France and Switzerland. In France, the French version of the single ‘Race to the end’, entitled ‘La course infinie’, was released as was a Spanish version, ‘Es tu libertad’. Véronique Skawinska, a friend of Demis, wrote a book about the diet he had undertaken. It was published in autumn 1981. In August 1981, Demis took advantage of his holidays to prepare for working on a new album in September and October 1981. In November 1981, Vicky Leandros recorded a duet album with singers such as Johnny Halliday, David Soul and Demis. This duet with his his fellow countrywoman came out as a single in December in Holland and Switzerland. Produced in March 1982, ‘demis’, a new album in a new musical style reflecting demis’ altered image, appeared in England, Holland, Germany and numerous other countries around the world. It was comprised of the following titles: ‘Lament’, ‘We’re shining’, ‘Take me sailing’, ‘Song without end’, ‘For the free’, ‘Gypsy lady’, ‘Need to forget’, ‘Race to the end’ and ‘Where are they now’. It came out in France, Italy, and Spain with tracks sung in the language of each country. For France, ‘Lament’ became ‘Au nom de l’amitié’, ‘Song without end’ became ‘Ma chanson qui n’en finit pas’, ‘For the free’ became ‘Les enfants du futur’, ‘Race to the end’ became ‘La course infinie’ and ‘Where are they now?’ became ‘Où est ce temps?’ For Italy, ‘For the free’ became ‘Ese tu’ and ‘Need to forget’ became ‘Impossible dimenticarti’. For Spain, ‘Take me sailing’ became ‘Una isla an el cielo’, ‘For the free’ became ‘En el nombre de I’amistad’, ‘Need to forget’ became ‘Nessecito Olvidar’ and ‘Race to the end’ became ‘Es tu libertad’. A single was released under the title ‘Lament’. As he had to do numerous television and radio shows to promote his record, Demis decided to move to England where he rented an apartment for six months. In the autumn of 1982 a single, ‘Follow me’, and an album, ‘Attitudes’, were released in France. The European version, released at the end of October or the beginning of November, comprised the following tracks: ‘Follow me’ (long version composed to the second movement of Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez), ‘Pretender’, ‘Planet Earth is blue’, ‘Deepest of all’, ‘Take my hand’, ‘Flaming star’, ‘House of the rising son’. For the English version, ‘Take my hand’ was replaced by a newly remixed version of ‘Lament’. ‘Flaming star’ was also replaced by ‘Race to the end’. An international single, ‘Follow me’ and ‘Song without an end’, was also produced. In 1983 the single ‘Jay’ was released, followed in 1984 by ‘Reflections’, an album produced by his friend Vangelis. It was a collection of well-known songs from numerous different artists. 1985 saw the release of another single, ‘Amis pour la vie’. This was the year in which an exceptional event was to leave a deep and lasting mark on Demis. On June 14 he was the victim of a plane hijacking when he was travelling with his wife Pamela. Shocked by this traumatising experience and having brushed with death, Demis realised just how precious and beautiful life is. He decided to work towards making the world a better place through what he knew best, his music. He planned to start recording again and to appear on stage. In 1986 he released a single, ‘Island of love’, followed in 1987 by another, ‘Quand je t’aime’. The album entitled ‘Le Grec’ and dedicated to his mother was released in 1988. Demis composed two of the tracks, ‘The beauty of your eyes’ and ‘Futureless forever’. ‘Voice and vision’, an album from which the track ‘On écrit sur les murs’ was also released as a single, came out in December 1989.

Demis live


Two singles came out in 1990, ‘Poésie’ and ‘Même si’. The album ‘Christmas’, recorded at the beginning of the nineties is still considered as the best selling collection of classical Christmas songs. Tours were organised in a number of French churches, home of these timeless songs. ‘Insight’, album on which, amongst other things, we find the poem ‘Spleen’ from Charles Baudelaire’s work ‘Les fleurs du mal’, was released in 1993. Demis is accompanied on this track by Ronnie. The symphonic album ‘In Holland’ and the album ‘Immortel’ were released in 1995. The latter is a collection of quintessential popular French songs such as ‘Les Moulins de mon coeur’ by Michel Legrand, ‘La mer’ and «Que reste-t-il de nos amours?’ by Charles Trénet, ‘Les feuilles mortes’ by Prévert, ‘La vie en rose’ and ‘L’hymne à l’amour’ by Edith Piaf. ‘Serenade’ came out in 1996. It is a collection of classical western opera pieces. A new CD, ‘Mon île’, composed of different ethnic music, was released in 1997. The most famous track remains ‘Dinata’. ‘The phenomenon’, a four CD collection, was released in 1998 and covers the thirty years of Demis Roussos’ career. It includes a song from his early days, ‘Thousand years of wondering’, and also a short rock opera inspired by Homer already planned in 1975. A DVD was also produced. It includes photos and enables us to discover the ‘Aphrodite’s Child’ era, to hear a moving interpretation of ‘Race to the end’ and to enjoy ‘On écrit sur les murs’ where Demis plays the bass. A new CD, recorded in German, ‘Auf Meinen Wegen’, English and Italian, was produced and released in 2000.

JUNE 2001

Universal has released a 20 track compilation. This luxurious object includes a biography derived from this site and illustrated with numerous photos.