Artemios “Demis” Ventouris-Roussos was born June 15, 1946, and passed away on January 25, 2015 aged 68.
The Greek singer had international hit records as a solo performer in the 1970s after having been a member of Aphrodite’s Child, a progressive rock group that also included Vangelis.
Roussos was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt in a Greek family. His father George (Yorgos Roussos) was a classical guitarist and an engineer and his mother Olga was a singer; her family also originally came from Greece.
As a child, he studied music and joined the Greek Church Byzantine choir in Alexandria. His formative years in the ancient port city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere were influenced by jazz but also traditional Arab and Greek Orthodox music.
His parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis and consequently moved to Greece.
Roussos was best known for his solo hits in the 1970s and 80s, including Forever and Ever, Goodbye and Quand je t’aime. Roussos was also well known for his off-screen role in Mike Leigh’s 1977 TV play Abigail’s Party, having provided the party’s soundtrack.
Other solo hits include My Friend the Wind, My Reason, Someday Somewhere and Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun.
Roussos’ love for kaftans saw him named “the Kaftan King” and he often wore them for his performances.
He was also famous for his vocal adaptation of the score from the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which had been composed by Vangelis.
In 1978, he decided to keep a lower profile and moved to Malibu Beach in the US – where he lost much of the weight that had seen him routinely mocked by comedians.
He was caught up in a plane hijacking when flight TWA 847 from Athens to Rome was hijacked by members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in 1985.
He and his third wife were held at gunpoint for five days before they were released. The traumatic experience changed his life and afterwards he decided the best way he could help others and promote understanding in the world was by returning to music.
He released his album The Story of Demis Roussos not long after.
Roussos died on January 25, 2015, from stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer and liver cancer while hospitalised at Ygeia Hospital in Athens, Greece.
Fellow Greek singer Nana Mouskouri paid tribute to Roussos on the French radio station RTL, saying: “He had a superb voice, he travelled in the world … he loved what he was doing… He was an artist, a friend. I hope he is in a better world.”
Roussos’ funeral was held at the First Cemetery of Athens, the burial place of many Greek politicians and cultural figures, on 30 January.
Composer Giorgos Hatzinasios commented, “I can still hear his heartfelt laugh in my ears and I want to bid farewell to him with nostalgia and love.”