PHOTO: You may be able to recognize Demis Roussos (right), but is the guy in the middle Vangelis? Yes, he is… On the left Loukas Sideras…

The whole Greek “pop” lineage, starting with “Aphrodite’s Child” has great importance to us in the Greek-American community, as they all were either born or had great careers here; above all, they display a very strong sense of “Cosmopolitanism” throughout their life and career, an identity trait created by our ancient forefathers, which remains our treasured gift to humanity. Let’s not forget that Vangelis ended up as an official composer of NASA (!!) and Chris Spheeris’ album “Culture” is a monument of Cosmopolitanism.

By Nick Stamatakis

This audience knows well my love for music – all music genres – and for music history.  For many years I have been talking to friends about the need to put together this wonderful history of those Greek “pop” and “rock” composers (and some singers), that had international careers in the English-speaking world starting from the 1960s.  The death of Vangelis earlier this year was certainly a “trigger” for those of us interested in music history to take a second look in the subject…

The 1960s, as we all now know, was an extremely seminal time for all forms of art and music all over the world – and Greece was not the exception to this rule.  The greatest composers like Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis, had their greatest hits in the 1960s and were heavily influenced by traditional folk and bouzouki/”rebetika” music.  But in the 1960s, the younger generations of Greeks, the teenagers and the 20 yr-olds, growing up in an exploding rock and pop music scene, suddenly realized that they were part of a broader international culture.  And they soon started adopting the international musical styles to their Greek roots. The result was a series of Greek composers that soon rose to fame in the English-speaking world.

The group that certainly deserves the credit of spearheading such a momentous movement is “Aphrodite’s Child”, started in 1967 and made up of Vangelis Papathanassiou (keyboards, flutes), Demis Roussos (bass, acoustic and electric guitar, vocals), Loukas Sideras (drums and vocals), and Silver Koulouris (guitar).  Vangelis and Demis already had experience forming bands previously (The Forminx and Idols, respectively).  Both of them represented “raw” musical talent of rare quality: they were both born by parents that were musicians… Vangelis never learned formal music and composed on the synthesizer. At the same time, Demis was born in cosmopolitan Alexandria, Egypt, a city that was, for over two millennia, the cradle of Greek cosmopolitanism.  Religious and folk music were certainly great early influences on both.

The group was supposed to escape the Greek dictatorship of 1967 to London, but visa problems had them stuck in Paris for a while.  Paris at the time, as we have noted many times before, was the home of a huge number of Greek intellectuals, artists, philosophers, and politicians (including the whole 1960s Greek political leadership Constantine Karamanlis, Constantine Mitsostakis, and occasionally Andreas Papandreou, Mikis Theodorakis, the pioneering composer Ianis Xenakis, the philosopher Nikos Poulantzas and so many others – including my late mentor, professor of Sociology and UNESCO Director at the time George V. Kavadias) to the extent that many books have to be written to analyze the phenomenon.  Paris was then the real intellectual capital of Greece.

Aphrodite’s Child had no problem finding their way to success in Paris, where soon they released their second single, “Rain and Tears“, a reworking of Pachelbel‘s Canon in D major. It became a huge hit in Europe, despite the song being sung in English. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. In October of the same year, the band released their first album End of the World.  The band ended in 1970 after having sold over 20 million discs, and still, to this day, they remain a cult band, mainly because of their psychedelic pop music.

It’s significant that their last album, “666”, inspired by the biblical “Book of Revelation”, was published after they had split… As we all know, both Vangelis and Demis Roussos pursued very successful solo careers for the following five decades!!

What most people do not realize is that both Vangelis and Demis, were basically “Manos Hadhidakis’ children”… It was impossible to be born and write music in Greece in these times without being influenced by the immense personality of Manos, whose style and musical performance left its mark on everyone who followed him in the music world.

The next generation, after Vangelis and Demis, can be certainly traced in Yanni (Chrysomalis), Chris Spheeris and Paul Voudouris, the last two born in America with a very strong sense of their Greek cultural heritage. We will soon proceed to present them also…

The whole Greek “pop” lineage, starting with “Aphrodite’s Child” has great importance to us in the Greek-American community, as they all were either born or had great careers here; above all, they display a very strong sense of cosmopolitanism throughout their life and career, an identity trait created by our ancient forefathers, which remains our treasured gift to humanity. Let’s not forget that Vangelis ended up as an official composer of NASA (!!) and Chris Spheeris’ album “Culture” is a monument of Cosmopolitanism.

BELOW ENJOY APHRODITE’S CHILD’S GREATEST HITS!

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Below is their first single, “Let me Live, Let me Love” in a 1969 performance…

One of their best hits- “It’s five o’clock”…

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Way cool European band – Aphrodite’s Child is before my time or didn’t hear them in USA; but awesome, haunting music —
    as usual, Vangelis adds his genius touch.

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