Greek singer-songwriter Demis Roussos, famous for his kaftan, beard and falsetto, died yesterday in Athens at the age of 68
reek singer Demis Roussos passed away yesterday in Athens, aged 68, having undergone treatment for an undisclosed illness at the city’s Hygeia Hospital for some time. The singer had many solo hits in the 70s and 80s, especially in Europe, but is probably best remembered for the song Forever And Ever, which went to No 1 in the UK in 1976.
Born in Egypt to a Greek father and Italian-Egyption mother in June 1946, Roussos moved with his family to Greece following the Suez Crisis. His musical career began in the late 1960s as part of a trio called Aphrodite’s Child, alongside Greek soundtrack superstar-to-be Vangelis. The band are seen as one of the originators of progressive rock. Their final album *666 was based on the Book of Revelations and is regarded as one of rock’s first concept albums.
When the group split up in 1971, Roussos launched his solo career and found immediate success with the single We Shall Dance. Other hits throughout his career included Velvet Mornings, Mr Reason, Lovely Lady Of Arcadia and Quand Je T’Aime. But it’s undoubtedly for Forever And Ever that he was most widely known. A European hit in 1973, it charted in the UK three years later after a documentary about the larger-than-life singer aired on British TV. The first ever UK No 1 by an African-born artist, the song also famously provided a backdrop for Mike Leigh’s hit play Abigail’s Party.
Roussos’s overall solo career sales are estimated at 60 million records. But in 1985 he found himself back in the limelight for non-musical reasons, when a plane he was on was hijacked by Arab terrorists in Athens and he was held hostage along with other passengers for five days.
On hearing the news, ex-bandmate Vangelis paid tribute in a statement on his official website: “Demis my friend, I have just arrived in London and I’ve been told that you decide to take the long voyage. I’m shocked because I can’t believe that this happened so soon. Nature gave you this magic voice of yours which made millions of people around the world very happy.”
Roussos was still performing and was due to play in Moscow on 12 March. He is survived by his daughter Emily and his son Cyril. You can hear his most famous song below.