Top 10 Greek-heritage recording artists
George Michael, Frank Zappa, Peter Andre, Maria Callas, and so on
The Greek world has been truly blessed by some of the most talented recording artists in history, from the '50s- era Johnny Otis to latter-day artists such as Marina and the Diamonds. Let's look at 10 Greek-heritage artists born outside of Greece and Cyprus who had a significant career globally with sales and influence. Considered but not included is brilliant Motley Crew drummer Tommy Lee who was born in Athens, not the US, as most believe him to be.
#10 Dimitri from Paris describes his sound as "music to swing to, lovingly crafted for your aural pleasure". That statement alone quantifies the style and substance of one the finest house music producers, who managed to draw in disco and other sounds over a career featuring 22 albums. Born in Constantinople, he migrated to Paris and in 1986, helped popularise the house genre across France with his radio broadcasts and through providing soundtracks to major fashion shows.
A key feature was his ability to mix records live on air. House music owes a debt to the DJ/producer whose 'Sacrebleu' album sold 350,000 copies in Europe alone. His influence in Europe ensured that my favourites, Art Alexakis from Everclear and Elena Paparizou, just missed out on the list.
#9 Peter Andre is one to stir debate. Down Under he may have been every teenage girl's dream growing up in the '90s, condemning him to heart-throb status. A few thousand kilometres away in the UK and Europe he is known for what he is very good at − singing. Born in the UK and raised on the Gold Coast, he had a string of massive hits including Mysterious Girl and Funky Junky in Australia, before his career flourished abroad. Four of his albums reached the UK Top Ten including Come Fly With Me, his fantastic 2015 swing album which showcased his depth. Four of his singles have charted at #1 in different countries.
#8 Alexis Korner was, like Dimitri, a Parisian. With a mixed Jewish and Greek heritage, he lived in different Mediterranean countries before calling the UK home. Bruce Eder of AllMusic sums him up thus: "Without Alexis Korner, there still might have been a British blues scene in the early 1960s, but chances are that it would have been very different from the one that spawned the Rolling Stones, nurtured the early talents of Eric Clapton, and made it possible for figures such as John Mayall to reach an audience."
#7 Kelly Clarkson won American Idol or something like that on manufactured TV. She was expected to fade … then talent and hard work set in and she now sits on 36 million singles sold and over 25 million from seven albums. Kelly has a mix of cultures that make up her DNA, though it is the Greek side she has an affinity to and she can speak the language fluently.
#6 Maria Callas was born in Astoria in New York, only moving to Athens as a teenager. One of the greatest opera singers the world has ever known and is likely to know, Maria Callas was a true global star. With 39 recorded albums and 50 stage musical roles, she posthumously won a Grammy award and was also voted BBC Music Magazine's greatest ever soprano. She belonged to a golden age of Greek talent that included Melina Mercouri, Aliki Vougiouklaki, a vast array of composers and Aristotle Onassis, her one-time love. Maria would grace the cover of Time and many publications of the 1950s.
#5 The Andrews Sisters, featuring LaVerne, Maxine and Patty, were born to a Greek father, Peter Andreos, and a Norwegian mother. Before the advent of rock and pop, the world was treated to the swing, harmony, jazz and boogie woogie of the sisters. Their fact file contains 600 recordings with almost 100 million sales globally and 46 Top Ten placings. They were active mainly before Billboard officially counted sales and radio play. This reason, and the fact there was less competition before Elvis and the Beatles, keeps them no higher than #5 on the list.
#4 Frank Zappa is one guitarist, singer and songwriter that time will never forget. With an incredible 62 albums released during his lifetime and more than 40 since his 1993 passing (not even 2Pac had that many posthumously), there is little more we can add. Except to say he is consistently mentioned in the same breath as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Stones. His heritage is from Naples and a Greek village in Sicily.
#3 Cat Stevens, aka Steven Demetre Georgiou, was born a London lad, with a career in the '70s that made him a superstar. Like many a Greek, I have felt (fleetingly) disappointed he converted to Islam, however, his humanitarian work and belief in people makes religion a moot point. Very pleased to hear how he refers to his Greek Cypriot roots and culture. Accumulating 14 studio records and 26 singles, this extraordinary talent has created some classics.
#2 Demis Roussos, the flamboyant and extremely talented singer, passed away in 2015, and the world lost one of its best. His 70 million records sold tell only part of the story; the Alexandria-born Demis was a genius of the 1970s, with charisma and a sound matched by few in the industry internationally.
Turn on the radio and his music played. He started his career in the 1960s with the acclaimed Afrodite's Child, which had a number of hits abroad and at one time featured composer Vangelis. Demis owned the decade that followed, with classics including Forever and Ever and My Friend the Wind. With 38 albums to his credit, many of his songs charted in the Top Ten. Arguably the first true male Greek superstar.
#1 George Michael, like Cat Stevens, has Greek Cypriot heritage and a music catalogue that quite simply is timeless. Even if his career stopped with Wham!, between 1982 to 1986, he would be remembered. The fact is he went on to not only outsell his pop duo group, but matured and became a genius of the highest order. Turn on the radio, sit in a bar or switch on a music show and chances are you will hear one of his tunes. His 'Faith' offering alone sold a staggering 25 million copies and his very average 'Songs from the Last Century' sold well internationally, which proves his poularity around the world.
Whether you are Too Funky or simply after a Careless Whisper, chances are you will be singing along.
Honourable mentions: the charismatic Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, Everclear, Elena Paparizou, who had many hits in Europe and previously with her band Antique, Johnny Otis from the 1950s, opera singer Mario Frangoulis, Marina and the Diamonds from Wales, Romanian-born Iannis Xerakis and rapper Diam.
* Billy Cotsis is the author of 'The Many Faces of Hellenic Culture'.
- Register Now
- Tsim Booky speaks to Neos Kosmos
- Is your Greek property on forestland?
- Fig & Walnut
- Tensions continue to escalate between Athens and Ankara
- Beating the odds of a silent killer
- 'Help a Dane' campaign in Greek goes viral
- Vassy tops Rihanna and Sia on US Billboard charts
- When facing diabetes, do it like the 'Healthy Greek Migrant'
- Corruption still riding high in crestfallen Greece
- Roar signs former Greek international defender
- Tsim Booky speaks to Neos Kosmos
- In memory of 16-month-old Nikki Adipas
- 'The New York Times' picks Greece, Australia and Cyprus among best places to visit in 2017
- James Penlidis has the answer: Go naked!
- 138 violations of Greek airspace by Turkish aircraft
- Bougias of Bourke Street
- WWII Bomb forces people to evacuate Thessaloniki
- When Melbourne went blue and white
- Is your Greek property on forestland?
- Is he one of us?
Archaeologists dubbed it '7,000-year-old enigma' as they don't know its provenance and can't explain its irregular size and matter.
Hellenes' in depth interpretation of the human psyche could teach modern generations a thing or two about relationships of all kinds.
Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos describes the benefits of following a Greek Mediterranean diet.
Copious amounts of food, great tunes, dance and filoxenia: the Lonsdale St Festival celebrates its milestone year by sharing the best aspects of being Greek with the masses.
Sydney and Melbourne in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world.
The 2020 Summer Olympics will take place in Japan, the birthplace of the sport of judo.
Neos Kosmos spoke one-on-one with the Greek Australian, who has made it onto the Top 10 Billboard Dance/Mixshow Charts with her dance-floor single Nothing to Lose.
Reflecting on 60 years since that first edition in 1957.
The inaugural Womens Community Shield will be contested at Olympic Village on Sunday.
The newly promoted club put its best foot forward in the NPL1 season opener, equalising against last season's grand finalist Oakleigh Cannons.
Last year Australian women's sport celebrated major advances.
Cris Ivanidis, director and audiologist at Active Audiology, says the process of getting the best hearing aid is going to be different for each person.
Fringe World Perth 2017 welcomes the symbiotic ethos of art, technology and myth as showcased by Australia's leading Greek creatives.
From unlikely champions to relegation battlers − where has it all gone wrong for Leicester City?
More than 50,000 people to leave their homes on Sunday, during detonation
Greek Australian photographer wins building development argument with his neighbours by baring it all.
The face of the week explains why he chose to troll Australian media by changing his name.
Billy Cotsis reflects on the experience of meeting the Greek youth of Amman, Jordan and the ever-present spirit of Hellenism.