Globally acclaimed with a career spanning over 60 years, Nana Mouskouri has sold over 300 million records. Born Ioanna Mouskouri in 1934, in Chania, Crete, she was a child of war who found haven in music, studying voice and piano at the Athens Conservatory.
Mouskouri had displayed exceptional musical talent from a young age and listened to radio broadcasts of singers including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Édith Piaf. She began singing lessons at the age of 12.
In 1950, she was accepted at the Athens Conservatoire. She studied classical music with an emphasis on singing opera. After eight years at the Conservatoire, Mouskouri was encouraged by her friends to experiment with jazz music.
Mouskouri later left the Conservatoire and began singing jazz in nightclubs with a bias towards Ella Fitzgerald repertoire. In 1957, she recorded her first song, “Fascination”, in both Greek and English for Odeon/EMI Greece.
By 1958 while still performing at the Zaki club in Athens, she met Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis, who was impressed by her voice and offered to write songs for her.
In 1959 Mouskouri performed Hadjidakis’ “Κάπου υπάρχει η αγάπη μου” (Somewhere my love exists) at the inaugural Greek Song Festival. The song won first prize, and Mouskouri began to be noticed.
At the 1960 Greek Song Festival, she performed two more Hadjidakis compositions, “Τιμωρία” (Punishment) and “Κυπαρισσάκι” (Little cypress). Both these songs tied for first prize. She later went on to sign a recording contract with Paris-based Philips-Fontana.
In 1961, Mouskouri performed the soundtrack of a German documentary about Greece. This resulted in the German-language single “Weiße Rosen aus Athen” (White Roses from Athens). The song was originally adapted by Hadjidakis from a folk melody. It became a success, selling over a million copies in Germany. The song was later translated into several languages and it went on to become one of Mouskouri’s signature tunes.
She also represented Luxembourg at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1963 with the song “À force de prier”.
As a contestant on the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest, Nana gained instant popularity and launched a long-standing TV career. A master of languages, she has recorded 1,600 songs in 21 languages.
From 1968 to 1976, she hosted her own TV show produced by BBC, Presenting Nana Mouskouri. Her popularity as a multilingual television personality and distinctive image, turned Mouskouri into an international star.
She scored a worldwide hit in 1981 with “Je chante avec toi Liberté”, which was translated into several languages after its success in France.
In 1984, Mouskouri returned to Greece and performed to a large audience at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, her first performance in her homeland since 1962.
Mouskouri was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in October 1993. Her first U.N. mission took her to Bosnia to draw attention to the plight of children affected by the Bosnian war. She went on to give a series of fund-raising concerts in Sweden and Belgium.
She was also elected to the European Parliament as a Greek deputy from 1994 to 1999.
On July 23 and 24, 2008, Mouskouri gave her two final ‘Farewell Concert’ performances at the ancient Herodes Atticus Theatre, in Athens, Greece, before a packed stadium.
In late 2011, Mouskouri released two newly recorded CDs, the first featuring songs of the Greek Islands, recorded with other Greek singers, and the second featuring duets with French contemporaries.
In late November 2011 Mouskouri sang again at a single concert, with guests, in Berlin, commemorating the 50th anniversary of her hit single “The White Rose of Athens”. She then did a concert tour in Germany in 2012.
At age 80, she embarked on a three-year Happy Birthday Tour and in 2018 had booked a five-month Forever Young Tour through parts of Europe and North America and Australia.