January 25, 2015 – Demis Roussos was born as Artemios Ventouris Roussos in Alexandria, Egypt, on June 15, 1946. His family was greek and his father George was a classical guitarist and engineer, while his mother Olga was a singer. As a child, he studied music and joined the Greek Byzantine Church choir. When his parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis, they decided to move to Greece.
As a teenager Demis sang in several local groups, including The Idols, where he met Vangelis. In 1967 he formed rock band Aphrodite’s Child with his friends Vangelis and Loukas Sideras, initially as a singer, but later he also played bass guitar. The band set off for London to break into the international music scene but were turned back at Dover due to visa problems. They retreated to Paris where they decided to stay, signing a record deal there with Philips Records.
Their first recording sessions were delayed by the general strike of May 1968 but later the same year the song “Rain and Tears” was issued across Europe and was a huge success. the song appeared on the album End of the World in October. Composed by Vangelis and the French lyricist Boris Bergman, the song featured Roussos’s unusual high tenor, The song was only a minor hit in Britain but was hugely successful in many other countries. Their second album featured another jewel: the title song “It’s Five o’Clock”. His unusual tenor voice reach allowed an operatic vocal style that helped propel the band to international success, notably on their final album 666, based on religious texts from the Apocalypse of St John, which became a progressive rock cult classic.
After Aphrodite’s Child disbanded, Demis continued to record sporadically with Vangelis. In 1970 the two released the film score album Sex Power, although the album has also been disputably credited to Aphrodite’s Child. They also recorded the ’77 album Magic, but their most successful collaboration was “Race To The End“, a vocal adaptation of the musical theme from the film Chariots of Fire.
Demis also guested on the soundtrack to Blade Runner in 1982, with “Tales Of The Future“. In 1971 he also launched a solo career with the song “We Shall Dance”. His single “Forever And Ever” topped the charts in several countries in 1973, including the UK in 1976. Other hits were “Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun”, “My Reason”, “Someday Somewhere”, “Velvet Mornings”, “My Friend The Wind”, “Goodbye My Love, Goodbye”, and “Lovely Lady Of Arcadia”.
His popularity in the rest of Europe, but not the UK, fascinated BBC TV producer John King, who made a documentary entitled “The Roussos Phenomenon” in 1976 and Philips Records released a four-song record of the same name, which was the first extended play to top the UK singles chart. He was equally successful in Latin America, the Middle East and Japan.
In 1973, Demis made one of his earliest television appearances on The Basil Brush Show and also appeared on Nana Mouskouri’s TV show in the UK. In 1980, he had a hit with a cover of Air Supply’s “Lost In Love”, sung as a duet with Florence Warner.
In June 1985, Demis was among the passengers of TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome, which was hijacked by Lebanese militants, but he was released along with four other Greeks after five days while most of the other hostages remained there for seventeen days.
He continued to record and tour well into the 2000s and 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 1960s and 1970s.
Also known as “The Kaftan King”, a dress code he preferred and perfected in the years that he grew to well over 300 pounds, sold more than 60 million albums worldwide. For years, Roussos struggled with his weight. In June 1980 he weighed 147 kilograms (324 lb). 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 photographer Veronique Skawinska, in which he dealt candidly with his struggles with obesity.
He died at the Hygeia Hospital in Athens on January 25, 2015 at the age of 68. He had been in the private hospital with an undisclosed illness for some time. He leaves behind survived by his mother, Olga, children Emily and Cyril, long-term partner Dominique, brother Costas and his ex-wives Pamela and Monique.