It might not be exactly clear as to how a kaftan clad, bearded Greek born in Egypt, fleeing his country due to a military coup and arriving in Paris instead of London, finding an audience in France anyway and then making a Progressive Rock album called 666 before embarking on a middle of the road musical path – could sell 60 million albums and melt the hearts of middle aged women everywhere in the world.
The answer is really quite simple – he had one of the most amazing, original and emotive voices that had ever been heard. He didn’t look like anyone else, he didn’t sound like anyone else, he didn’t dress like anyone else. Although the continent warmed to his group Aphrodite’s Child, it took much longer for Roussos to break into the UK market, but when he did he was everywhere.
Aphrodite’s Child had six Top Twenty singles in Italy between 1968 and 1970 – three of them went to No.1, two of the other three went Top Ten. Six songs went Top Twenty in Holland in about the same period. Rain And Tears their biggest hit managed No.29 in the UK but that was it till one sweet sunny morn in 1975 when Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun reached No.5 on the UK chart. His next single Can’t Say How Much I Love You faltered at No.35. but in 1976 Forever And Ever went to No.1 and the Demis Roussos phenomenon was in full swing.
When Forever Has Gone reached No.2 in the same year, women were weeping in the supermarkets as the song came over the tannoi. He was in lifts, in airports, in restaurants, garages and all over the television. His massive frame covered in striking kaftan made no doubt as to who was singing. He stared at you from behind a thick black beard and from above a dark matted black hairy chest. Women were falling off bikes, melting on pavements, swooning in the aisles, it was official – Demis Roussos was the sexiest man on the planet.
Bazoukis were buzzing in everyone’s ears, feta cheese sales rocketed, olives disappeared off shop shelves, Ouzo was everywhere, Nana Mouskouri walked into a door after forgetting her glasses, Vangelis, Roussos’s ex-band mate from Aphrodite’s Child (as legend has it) dropped his Academy Award for Chariots Of Fire on the hearth.
Roussos made records in German, Spanish, French, English, Greek and Portuguese but by the eighties Roussos’ reign as Pop Star was over. He continued to be an attraction and played many concerts all over the world but suffered from clinical depression and fought a long battle with his weight, co-writing a book A Question Of Weight with friend Veronique Skawinska.
There really was nothing quite like Demis Roussos before or since. He had the voice of the valleys and mountains, of the sea and the land, a vibrato that could shake the leaves off a tree, a piercing falsetto, he poured his heart out in earnest without question – he didn’t sing he pleaded. He was a one man opera, the whole cast, the scenery, the theatre itself; a complete and total original. RIP Demis, love and condolences to your friends and family.
Obituary from The Independent:
This is a post about Aphrodite’s Child (with lots of clips) on the In Deep Music Archive site from June 2014:
After Aphrodite’s Child and before his ascent to mega-stardom, Demis Roussos made the album On The Greek Side Of My Mind in 1971. It began with a poem of the same name and is a truly beautiful record that bridges the Sixties, Greek sentiment, Progressive Rock and the romantic mainstream.