Artemios “Demis” Ventouris Roussos 15 June 1946 – 25 January 2015) was a Greek singer and performer who had international hit records as a solo performer in the 1970s after having been a member of Aphrodite’s Child, a progressive rock group that also included Vangelis.
He sold over 60 million albums worldwide.
Roussos was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, in a family where his father George (engineer Yorgos Roussos) was Greek and mother Nelly Mazloum was Egyptian of Italian origin. His parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis and consequently decided to move to Greece.
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 Evangelos Papathanassiou (later known as Vangelis) and Loukas Sideras, his future bandmates in Aphrodite’s Child. After this he joined We Five (not the San Francisco, California folk-rock group), another cover band which had limited success in Greece.
Roussos came to a wider audience in 1967 when he joined progressive rock band Aphrodite’s Child, with Vangelis and 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 as a result of bad weather, the plane landed them in Paris – and they decided to stay there signing a record deal with Philips S.A. His operatic vocal style helped propel the band to international success, notably on their final album 666, which became a progressive rock cult classic.
After Aphrodite’s Child disbanded, Roussos continued to record sporadically with former bandmate Vangelis. In 1970 the two released Sex Power (although the album has also been disputably credited to Aphrodite’s Child), also recording 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, while Roussos also guested on the soundtrack to Blade Runner (1982), with a song entitled “Tales Of The Future”.
Roussos was as famous for his outfits as his music
Roussos also began a solo career with the song “We Shall Dance” in 1971. Initially unsuccessful, he toured around Europe and became a leading artist. His solo career peaked in the mid 1970s with several hit albums. His single “Forever And Ever” topped the charts in several countries in 1973 (1976 in U.K.). Other hits were “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 an Englishman David Lewis with the record reaching No. 5 in the charts. His popularity in the rest of Europe, but not the UK, came to fascinate BBC-TV producer John King who made a documentary which he called ‘The Roussos Phenomenon’ in 1976. The programme was aired and Roussos’ scored a number one chart selling E.P. record of the same title and with three back catalogue albums entering the charts.
Roussos pictured alongside Sir Elton John in 1981. He topped the UK charts in 1976 with his song Forever and Ever
Roussos was mentioned in the television play Abigail’s Party (1977) and made one of his earliest appearances on English-speaking TV on the Basil Brush Show. Before appearing on the Basil Brush Show, he had appeared on Nana Mouskouri’s TV show in the UK, singing a duet version of his hit single “Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun”. In 1980, he had a hit with a cover of Air Supply’s “Lost In Love”, sung as a duet with Florence Warner. His UK career was now being managed by former Phonogram promoter Don Percival.
Roussos re-recorded his songs in a number of languages, including Japanese, whereas The Roussos Phenomenon EP was the first No. 1 hit for an African-born artist in the history of the UK Singles Chart. He was equally successful across Europe and Latin America, although a gold disc for the LP Demis remains his only success in the United States.
Roussos with Nana Mouskouri
For years Roussos struggled with his weight. In June 1980 he weighed 147 kg. He then began a diet in which he lost 50 kg in 10 months. In 1982 he co-authored the book A Question Of Weight with his close friend Veronique Skawinska, in which he dealt candidly with his struggles with obesity. Roussos suffered a fallow period during the 1980s in terms of hits and his output dried up as he battled clinical depression.
In June 1985, Roussos was among the hostages during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
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.
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, utilising a variety of ethnic and electronic styles..
Roussos continued to record and tour. In 2002 he toured England, whilst in recent years he appeared in Russia and the United Arab Emirates. A committed follower of the Greek Orthodox faith, he sung as a guest in a number of churches in Greece and worldwide.
In 2006, he released the acclaimed Live In Brasil, which documents his return to a country where his popularity led him to record “Você Você E Nada Mais” – a hit in Portuguese. 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 sixties and seventies.
A comeback took place in 2009, with Roussos recording a new studio album produced by Marc di Domenico, released on May 11.
Demis Roussos Sitting With His Wife Monique And Their Daughter Emily.
Roussos died in the morning of 25 January 2015, while hospitalized at Ygeia Hospital in Athens, Greece. His death was confirmed a day later by his friend, the journalist Nikos Aliagas, who tweeted the news on 26 January 2015 in both Greek and French. His death was confirmed later the same day by his daughter, who spoke to Greek and French media.
In popular culture
• The Roussos song “A Flower’s All You Need” is featured in both the opening and closing credits for Aldo Lado’s 1975 horror film Night Train Murders.
• He is the subject of an argument between two main characters in Mike Leigh’s 1977 play Abigail’s Party.
• Roussos sang the song “All Is Vanity” on Martyn Ford’s 1970s The Bible Album. The lyrics of the song are based on Chapter Cne of the book of Ecclesiastes.
• Roussos appeared on The Dame Edna Experience, in the same episode as Joan Rivers, to perform “Forever and Ever” and be interviewed.
Aphrodite’s Child albums
• End of the World (1968)
• It’s Five O’Clock (1969)
• 666 (1972)
• On the Greek Side of My Mind (also called Fire and ice) (1971)
• Forever and Ever (1973)
• My Only Fascination (1974)
• Auf Wiederseh’n (1974, German language)
• Souvenirs (1975)
• Happy To Be (1976)
• Die Nacht und der Wein (1976, German language)
• Kyrila (1977, German language)
• The Demis Roussos Magic (1977)
• Ainsi soit-il (1977, French language)
• Los super 2 LP (1977, Spanish language)
• Demis Roussos (1978)
• Universum (1979, Spanish language)
• Man of the World (1980)
• Roussos Live! (1980)
• Demis (1982)
• Attitudes (1982)
• Reflection (1984)
• Senza Tempo (1985)
• Greater Tove (1986)
• The Story of… (1987)
• Come All Ye Faithful (1987)
• Le Grec (1988)
• Time (1988)
• Voice and Vision (1989)
• Insight (also called Morning has Broken or Adagio) (1993)
• Demis Roussos in Holland (1995)
• Immortel (1995)
• Serenade (1996)
• Mon île (1997)
• Auf meinen Wegen (2000)
• Live in Brazil (2006)
• Demis (May 2009)
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