Stelios Kazantzidis is considered by many as the most prolific Greek singer of all time.
In his musical career, he recorded more than 1,500 songs and was recognised as the voice of the working class, since many of his songs spoke about their issues.
Kazantzidis was born in Nea Ionia, Athens, on August 29, 1931. His father’s death forced him into employment to support his family by working a number of jobs, including baggage carrier, seller of roasted chestnuts, builder, and laborer.
Music had surrounded him since his birth and he started to play the guitar in his teenage years, when a factory owner gave him one.
He made his first appearance as a singer in a club at Kifissia in 1950. Two years later in 1952, he released his first album with Apostolos Kaldara’s song “Gia Mpanio Pas,” which had moderate sales and was considered a failure.
But his next song, “Oi Valitses,” became the first of many hits and he emerged as a first-class singer. He started to sing in the biggest nightclubs of Athens, like Theios, Mpertzeletos, and Rosiniol. During this period he met, engaged, and worked with Kaiti Gray until 1957. Their biggest hit together was Xioti’s “Apopse Fila Me.”
The late ’50s to mid-’60s were the most creative years for Kazantzidis. He met and started to work with Marinella in Thessaloniki and later got engaged to her.
He made many hits with the best Greek songwriters of the time, like Vasilis Tsitsanis, Manolis Xiotis, Apostolos Kaldaras, Kostas Virvos, Mikis Theodorakis, Manos, Hadjdakis, Xristos Leontis, Stauros Xarhakos, and Giannis Markopoulos.
He appeared in the biggest nightclubs and also participated in many movies for the emerging Greek cinema.
Besides his work as a singer, he also composed his own songs that became big hits, like “Ziguala” and “Mantuvala.”
In 1961 he participated in the musical plays of Theodorakis and Hadjidakis, and in January 1964, Kazantzidis left Columbia Records for Odeon-Parlophone. In the same year he married Marinella. Their marriage did not last long but they remained friends.
In 1965 Kazantzidis, while in the peak of his career, decided to stop appearing in nightclubs. He didn’t sing in public again for the rest of his life.
For the next ten years, he only released studio albums.
Kazantidis died on September 14, 2001, after a long battle with cancer, and his death spread grief and sorrow in Greece and especially amongst the Greek diaspora around the world, who he had created a special bond with.
His last wife, Vaso, and Marinella were at his side until his last hours.
Kazantzidis was commemorated on a Greek postage stamp in 2010.