Greek singer Demis Roussos dies aged 68
26 January 2015 Last updated at 10:52 ET
Greek singer Demis Roussos, who sold more than 60 million albums worldwide,
has died aged 68 the Hygeia Hospital in Athens has confirmed to the BBC.
He was best known for his solo hits in the 1970s and 80s, including Forever
and Ever, Goodbye and Quand je t'aime.
He was also a member of progressive rock group Aphrodite's Child.
Roussos was renowned for his off-screen role in Mike Leigh's 1977 TV play
Abigail's party, having provided the party's soundtrack.
He had been in the private hospital with an undisclosed illness for some
His Aphrodite's Child bandmate Vangelis paid tribute in a statement that
begins: "Demis my friend.
"I have just arrived in London and I've been told that you decide to take
the long voyage, I'm shocked because I can't believe that this happened so
"Nature gave you this magic voice of yours which made millions of people
around the world very happy."
He added: "As for me, I keep those special memories that we share together
those early days and I wish you to be happy wherever you are."
He signed off with the words: "Goodbye my friend goodbye. Love Vangelis."
Greek singer Nana Mouskouri paid tribute on French radio RTL: "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."
The singer was born Artemios Ventouris Roussos in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1946
, to a Greek father and Egyptian mother of Italian origin.
He was raised there until his parents moved to Greece in the early 60s after
losing their possessions during the Suez Crisis.
Roussos began his music career at 17, when he joined the a band called The
Idols, where he met Vangelis.
Aphrodite's Child produced three albums including It's Five O'Clock and The
Apocalypse of St John, and enjoyed huge success in Europe in the late 1960s,
Roussos went on to enjoy a successful solo career, topping the charts in
several countries with Forever And Ever in 1973, before doing the same in
the UK in 1976.
Demis Roussos was still performing on stage in 2012
In Mike Leigh's 1977 TV play Abigail's Party, the character Beverly - played
by Alison Steadman (back right), was a huge Demis Roussos fan
Roussos was photographed surrounded by awards for the UK sales of his albums
, including gold discs for Happy To Be and My Only Fascination
Other solo hits include My Friend the Wind, My Reason, Someday Somewhere and
Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun.
Roussos' fondness for kaftans saw him dubbed "the Kaftan King" and he often
wore them for his performances on shows such as Top of the Pops.
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
On 14 June, 1985, Roussos boarded TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome - and
found himself at the mercy of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, who
hijacked the plane.
The men, who had smuggled a pistol and grenades through airport security,
held the passengers at gunpoint.
The militant group demanded the release of 17 members of Hezbollah and the
Iraqi Islamic Daawa Party, who had been detained in Kuwait for attacks that
killed six people in 1983.
Roussos spent his 39th birthday in captivity, before being released in
Beirut on 18 June - but most of the remaining 153 passengers spent 17 days
on the plane.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency at the time, the singer said he had been
"treated quite well".
"They gave me a birthday cake and they gave me a guitar, to sing," he said.
"They have been very polite and very nice with us."
Return to music
Over the years, his quote became misinterpreted and distorted. Some papers
said he had serenaded the hijackers. Others claimed he had pledged
allegiance to Hezbollah.
Roussos, who rarely spoke about the incident, admitted he was riled by the
exaggerations in an interview with Australia's Daily Telegraph in 2006.
"It is not every day that a pop superstar gets involved with terrorism as a
victim, so the press takes advantage of that to say things they think are
''I would like to see the journalist [who first reported the claim] in front
of gunpoint like I was. Believe me, if he was there he would be so scared
he wouldn't care about writing such stupidities like that.''
The 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
He released his album The Story of Demis Roussos not long after.