Greek singer Demis Roussos dies at 68

Greek singer Demis Roussos dies at 68

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Greek singer Demis Roussos dies at 68

A file picture taken on December 15, 2006 in Paris, shows Greek singer Demis Roussos performing on the stage of the Zenith music hall. AFP Photo

Greek singer Demis Roussos, best known for operatic pop ballads in the 1970s and 1980s, died in Athens at the weekend aged 68.
The entertainer had been admitted to the Igia clinic some time ago with an undisclosed illness and the medical facility issued only a brief statement on Monday announcing his death.
Roussos sold about 60 million records worldwide with a high-pitched voice and a style that brought together melodies inspired by Greek folklore, romance, relationships and break ups.
He was also briefly held hostage by Lebanese militants when he was aboard a hijacked plane in Greece.        

Roussos was born in Egypt on June 15, 1945 to a Greek father who took the family back to Greece in 1961.
He found fame in the 1970s after teaming up with fellow Greek musician Vangelis in the band Aphrodite's Child.
He soon went solo and built a long career over which he sold millions of albums with such hits as "Forever and Ever", "Mr Reason", "Goodbye My Love, Goodbye" and "Je t'aime."       

Roussos had long struggled with his weight, and in later years suffered ill-health that kept him chair-bound.
He recorded and toured until 2009, when his last album came out. One of his last public appearances was in the Athens in 2013, when he received a French Legion of Honour medal for his life's work.
But it was his melancholy face on 1970s and 1980s album covers that provided the most enduring image of the singer: a theatrical figure with a flowing dark beard, intense dark eyes and long hair thinning on top.
 He carried this larger-than-life persona on stage during concerts with colourful clothing, and sustained it with a voice that belted out powerful operatic flourishes.
"Back in '75 I had five albums in the top 10. Simultaneously. And among them the number one album and the number one single. And my name was mentioned twice or three times in the Guinness Book of Records," he said in an interview with The Guardian in 1999.                        

Though he had been singing since childhood, Roussos began his musical career at 17 playing guitar and bass in a band called "The Idols."       

During one of the group's performances, Roussos briefly replaced the lead singer and belted out his rendition of the American folk ballad "House of the Rising Sun".        

The audience, according to Roussos' website, was instantly captivated by his voice. Within years of that early success he was singing more and more, increasingly as a soloist.        

Years later Roussos was aboard TWA flight 847 when it was hijacked by men with the Lebanese group Hezbollah on June 14, 1985.
In exhange for the Roussos and the other hostages, Hezbollah demanded the release of 17 of its militants and Iraqi Islamic Daawa Party members who were arrested in Kuwait in connection with attacks that killed six people in 1983.
Roussos, who spent his 39th birthday as a hostage, was released four days into the ordeal, with most of the roughly 150 passengers held for nearly two more weeks.