Popular Greek balladeer who sold 60 million records

Demis Roussos: June 15th, 1946 - January 25th, 2015

Few pop artists of the past 50 years achieved such wide global recognition as Demis Roussos, who has died aged 68. The kaftan-clad crooner was reported to have sold more than 60 million records in his long career.

One of Roussos's most enduring signature songs was the title track of his 1973 album Forever and Ever. The album reached No 2 in the UK charts in 1974. It was followed by Happy to Be On an Island in the Sun , a number shrewdly aimed at the growing British fondness for Mediterranean holidays and a top 10 hit in 1975, as was the accompanying album.

Artemios Ventouris-Roussos was born in Alexandria, Egypt, to George Roussos and Nelly Mazloum. His father, a civil engineer and classical guitarist, was of Greek extraction and his mother of Egyptian and Italian origin. Demis's vocal abilities were recognised at an early age and he became a soloist with a church choir. He also took up the guitar and trumpet.


Increasing xenophobia in Egypt after the Suez crisis led the family to emigrate to Athens in 1961. There Roussos took up the bass guitar and as a teenager sang and played in a series of pop groups, culminating in Aphrodite’s Child from 1967, which he formed with keyboards player Evangelos Papathanassiou (aka Vangelis) and drummer Loukas Sideras. The trio decided to move to London but only got as far as Paris, where they recorded a song,


Rain and Tears

, which was a big hit across Europe.

Aphrodite's Child had more hit singles in continental Europe but eventually Vangelis's ambition to create film music led to a split. He and Roussos would occasionally collaborate in later years, notably in 1981, when Roussos sang Race to the End, a vocal version of Vangelis's theme from Chariots of Fire.

Roussos then embarked on a solo career. Although his songs were generally written in English, he often rerecorded them in French, German and Spanish, and even, on one occasion, in Japanese.

TV appearances

In 1973, he released

Forever and Ever

, which became his first British hit record after widespread television appearances, including on

The Nana Mouskouri Show

and the children’s programme

The Basil Brush Show


In 1976 a BBC TV documentary, The Roussos Phenomenon, produced by John King, kindled further interest in the singer. Philips issued a four-song record of the same name (including a version of Forever and Ever), which became the first EP to top the British singles chart. A few months later, the single When Forever Has Gone was only kept from achieving the same position by Abba's Dancing Queen.

Critics had often remarked on Roussos's weight and by the end of the 1970s, when he weighed nearly 150kg (about 23st 9lb), the singer himself had become concerned. Eventually he found a diet that helped him lose 50kg in 10 months. In 1982, he described this process in the book A Question of Weight .

In 1985, he was travelling on TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome when it was hijacked by Hizbullah terrorists and flown to Beirut. Most of the passengers were held hostage for 17 days but Roussos and other Greek citizens on board were released after five.

Although his popularity in Britain declined from its 1970s peak, Roussos continued to record and perform around the world until shortly before his death.

Christian faith

A recent tour of France included shows in churches, a sign of his deeply held Christian faith. Even sceptical reviewers were forced to acknowledge his enduring popularity. As a


critic at his Royal Festival Hall concert in 2002 put it: “As he dances about the stage like a delighted uncle at a boozy wedding, he is impossible to dislike and – as ever – utterly unique.”

Roussos was married three, or possibly four, times. He is survived by a daughter, Emily, and a son, Cyril Artemios (Demis) Ventouris.