Stelios Kazantzidis (29/08/1931 - 14/09/2001)

Stelios Kazantzidis Stelios Kazantzidis was a Greek singer and is considered one of the most important singers of the Greek folk repertoire (laiko).

He was born in August 1931 in the district Nea Ionia of Athens. His father was active during the National Resistance movement and during the Civil War, he was murdered by parastatal anticommunists. Kazantzidis, as a teenager, was forced to seek multiple jobs in order to make ends meet; he started working in factories, spinning mills, and selling cigarettes and water. One of his employers was the first person that really appreciated Kazantzidis’ voice, who would sing while working, and he offered him a guitar. He was taught to play by Stelios Chrysinis, a blind composer.

In 1952, Kazantzidis made his debut with a song written by Apostolos Kaldaras. The record did not sell at all, because Kazantzidis tried to mimic the voice of Prodromos Tsaousakis, an established singer of the time, and Kazantzidis’ career was about to end before it had even begun. However, the composer Yannis Papaioannou realized the full potential of Kazantzidis’ voice and he wrote a song for him; it became an immediate hit. In October 1965, he decided to join forces with the famous singers Marinella and Manolis Aggelopoulos in their concerts, which were never carried out, as Kazantzidis took the decision to stop his appearances in night clubs and concerts a few months later. This was his protest to the lousy working conditions of singers in night clubs and was the most powerful action anyone had ever taken to that point against the established system of discography within Greece.

Instead, Kazantzidis and Marinella, as well as football player Mimis Papaioannou, visited Germany and started appearing in concerts. Along with them, was the then unknown bouzouki virtuoso Christos Nikolopoulos. The Greek immigrants offered them a warm welcome. During that period, Kazantzidis and Kolokotronis wrote the song that would become the hymn of the AEK football team, which was sung by Papaioannou.

In 1959, Kazantzidis went to court against the record company Columbia, because of the record sales of his album, which had sold over 100,000 copies, an extraordinary number for the time. Although the company profited vastly by the sales, Kazantzidis was only given a very small, one – time amount, which was the common practice then. Kazantzidis demanded to be given a share of the profits and he eventually won the trial. He was the first in Greece to claim a percentage of the profits, and this paved the way for many other singers as well. In 1969, he tried to create his own record company, but the established interests and the censorship by the Regime of the Colonels forbade it. In 1975, he had his last record before a 12 – year hiatus, which was the greatest hit of his career. He returned to singing in 1987 until 2001, when he was admitted to hospital due to brain tumor. He died soon afterwards.

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