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Nana Mouskouri (Greek: Nάνα Μούσχουρη, pronounced ˈnana ˈmusxuri), born Iōánna Moúschouri (Greek: Ιωάννα Μούσχουρη ioˈana ˈmusxuri) on October 13, 1934, in Chania, Crete, Greece, is a Greek singer. She was known as "Nána" to her friends and family as a child.
She has recorded songs in many languages, including Greek, French, English, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, Welsh, Mandarin Chinese, Corsican, and Turkish.
Nana Mouskouri's family lived in Chania, Crete, where her father, Constantine, worked as a film projectionist in a local cinema; her mother, Alice, worked in the same cinema as an usherette. When Mouskouri was three, her family moved to Athens.
Mouskouri's family sent her and her older sister Eugenía (Jenny) to the Athens Conservatoire. Although Mouskouri had displayed exceptional musical talent from age six, Jenny initially appeared to be the more gifted sibling. Financially unable to support both girls' studies, the parents asked their tutor which one should continue. The tutor conceded that Jenny had the better voice, but Nana was the one with the true inner need to sing. Mouskouri has said that a medical examination revealed a difference in her two vocal cords and this could well account for her remarkable singing voice (in her younger years ranging from a husky, dark alto, which she later dropped, to a ringing coloratura mezzo), as opposed to her breathy, raspy speaking voice.
Mouskouri's childhood was marked by the German Nazi occupation of Greece. Her father became part of the anti-Nazi resistance movement in Athens.
Mouskouri began singing lessons at age 12. As a child, she listened to radio broadcasts of singers such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Édith Piaf.
In 1950, she was accepted at the 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. She began singing with her friends' jazz group at night. However, when Mouskouri's Conservatory professor found out about Mouskouri's involvement with a genre of music that was not in keeping with her classical studies, he prevented her from sitting for her end-of-year exams. During an episode of "Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey", shown on the UK ITV channel in the autumn of 2011, Mouskouri told the actress Joanna Lumley of how she had been scheduled to sing at the amphitheatre at Epidauros with other students of the Conservatoire, when upon arrival at the amphitheatre word came through from the Conservatoire in Athens that she had just been barred from participating in the performance there due to her involvement in light music. Mouskouri subsequently left the Conservatoire and began performing at the Zaki club in Athens.
She 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, she met Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. Hadjidakis was impressed by Nana's voice and offered to write songs for her. In 1959 Mouskouri performed Hadjidakis' Kapou Iparchi I Agapi Mou (co-written with poet Nikos Gatsos) 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, Timōría ("Punishment") and Kyparissáki ("Little cypress"). Both these songs tied for first prize. Mouskouri performed Kostas Yannidis' composition, Xypna Agapi Mou ("Wake up, my love"), at the Mediterranean Song Festival, held in Barcelona that year. The song won first prize, and she 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.
Mouskouri has been married twice: firstly at 25, to Yorgos (George) Petsilas, a guitarist in her backing band (the trio "The Athenians") and the first man she had kissed. They had two children (Nicolas Petsilas in 1968 and Hélène (Lénou) Petsilas (singer) in 1970) but divorced when Mouskouri was 39. Not long after that, she met her second husband, André Chapelle, then her sound technician, but they did not marry then because she "didn't want to bring another father into the family" and divorce was against her conservative upbringing. They eventually married on 13 January 2003, and live primarily in Switzerland.
Life outside Greece:
In 1960, Mouskouri moved to Paris. Mouskouri performed Luxembourg's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1963 that year, "À force de prier". Although the song only achieved eighth place in the contest, it achieved commercial success, and helped win her the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque in France. Mouskouri soon attracted the attention of French composer Michel Legrand, who composed two songs which became major French hits for her: "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg" (1964) and an arrangement of Katherine K. Davis's "Carol of the Drum", "L'Enfant au Tambour" (1965).
In 1962, she met Quincy Jones, who persuaded her to travel to New York City to record an album of American jazz titled The Girl from Greece Sings. Following that she scored another hit in the United Kingdom with My Colouring Book. In 1965, she recorded her second English-language album to be released in the United States, entitled Nana Sings. American singer Harry Belafonte heard and liked the album. Belafonte brought Mouskouri on tour with him through 1966. They teamed for a duo album entitled An Evening With Belafonte/Mouskouri. During this tour, Belafonte suggested that Mouskouri remove her signature black-rimmed glasses when on stage. She was so unhappy with the request that she wanted to quit the show after only two days. Finally, Belafonte relented and respected her wish to perform while wearing glasses.
Mouskouri's 1967 French album Le Jour où la colombe raised her to super-stardom in France. This album featured many of her French songs, Au cœur de septembre, Adieu Angélina, Robe bleue, robe blanche and the French pop classic Le Temps des cerises. Mouskouri made her first appearance at Paris' legendary Olympia concert theatre the same year, singing French pop, Greek folk, and Hadjidakis numbers.
In 1968, five years after her appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest which had been produced by the BBC, Mouskouri was invited with her backing group, the Athenians, to host a BBC TV series called Presenting... Nana Mouskouri. Each episode of the series typically contained songs from her repertoire of Greek folk music, French chansons, classical pieces and contemporary pop, and the shows often featured world music stars of the time, which made it one of the first BBC TV series to do so regularly. The series remained very popular with British viewers throughout its eight-year run, despite the fact that stars from mainland Europe singing foreign-language material have tended to find it difficult to break into the British market. Mouskouri would welcome the television audience and chat to her guest stars in fluent English, as well as perform some British and American songs as part of her shows, and this led to a very positive reaction from the largely monolingual British audience. As the producer of the series, Yvonne Littlewood, later explained, Mouskouri was very different to the majority of the singers who were popular in Britain at that time:
"I liked the voice and I thought she had a personality... I suppose it was unusual to see a singer wearing glasses. She didn't look like everyone else. She didn't have blonde hair, and she was very distinctive in her appearance. ... You know, we should remember that, in those days, we didn't have all the holiday programmes, so Greek music and anything Greek wasn't as well known to the average public as it is now. She would give the gist in English of the subject of the song before she sang it, and that was really quite unique and quite charming."
In 1969, Mouskouri released a full-length British LP, Over and over, which reached number 10 and spent almost two years in the UK album charts. This was the first of a series of English-language albums which, boosted by her TV appearances, sold extremely well in the UK and Ireland during the early 1970s, including The exquisite Nana Mouskouri (1969), Turn on the sun (1970), A place in my heart (1971) and Presenting... Nana Mouskouri (1973), while concerts from two of her British tours were also recorded and released as LPs: British Concert (1972) and Live at the Albert Hall (1974).
Although her last annual British TV series was in 1976, the BBC engaged Mouskouri for various one-off television specials until the mid-1980s. Her international appeal had encouraged the broadcaster to sell her programmes to television stations in other parts of Europe and around the world, and during the 1970s, Mouskouri was also hosting her own shows on French and West German TV. Without doubt, her popularity as a multilingual television personality rapidly increased her global profile during this period. She expanded her concert tour to include not only the United Kingdom, but also Ireland, New Zealand, Japan and Australia, where she met and befriended Frank Hardy, who followed her to the south of France in 1976. Always a prolific recording artist, the 1970s saw her record several LPs in German, including the hit albums, Sieben schwarze Rosen (1975) and Lieder, die die Liebe schreibt (1978), while in France, she released a series of top-selling records, such as Comme un soleil (1971), Une voix qui vient du cœur (1972), Vieilles chansons de France (1973), and Quand tu chantes (1976). Meanwhile, Passport, a compilation of her most popular songs in English, reached number 3 in the UK album charts in 1976 and won for her a gold disc. During the decade, she also recorded several Japanese songs for the Japanese market.
In 1979, Mouskouri released another English-language album named Roses and Sunshine. This album consisting largely of folk and country material, and included work from sources as Neil Young, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan and John Denver. It was well received in Canada, and one of the album's tracks, "Even Now" (not the same song as the 1978 Barry Manilow hit), became a staple on beautiful music radio stations in the United States. She scored a worldwide hit in 1981 with Je Chante Avec Toi, Liberté, which was translated into several languages after its success in France. The momentum from this album also helped boost her following German album, Meine Lieder sind mein Leben. In 1984, Mouskouri returned to Greece for her first live performance in her homeland since 1962.
In 1985, Mouskouri recorded Only Love, the theme song to the British TV series Mistral's Daughter -- based upon the novel by Judith Krantz -- which reached number 2 in the UK charts. The song was also a hit in its other versions: L'Amour en Héritage (French), Come un'eredità (Italian), La dicha del amor (Spanish), and Aber die Liebe bleibt (German). The German version was also recorded with an alternate set of lyrics under the title Der wilde Wein but was withdrawn in favour of Aber die Liebe bleibt.
That same year, Mouskouri made a play for the Spanish-language market with the hit single Con Toda el Alma. The song was a major success in Spain, Argentina and Chile.
She released five albums in different languages in 1987, and the following year returned to her classical conservatory roots with the double LP The Classical Nana (a.k.a. Nana Classique), which featured adaptations of classical songs and excerpts from opera. By the end of 1987, she had performed a series of concerts in Asia, including South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.
Mouskouri's 1991 English album, Only Love: The Best of Nana Mouskouri, became her best-selling release in the United States. She spent much of the 1990s touring the globe. Among her early 1990s albums were spiritual music, Gospel (1990), the Spanish-language Nuestras Canciones, the multilingual, Mediterranean-themed Côté Sud, Côté Coeur (1992), Dix Mille Ans Encore, Falling in Love Again: Great Songs From the Movies. Falling in Love featured two duets with Harry Belafonte.
In 1993, Mouskouri recorded the album Hollywood. Produced by Michel Legrand it was a collection of famous songs from films, and served not only as a tribute to the world of cinema, but also as a personal reference to childhood memories of sitting with her father in his projection room in Crete.
She recorded several more albums over 1996 and 1997, including the Spanish Nana Latina (which featured duets with Julio Iglesias and Mercedes Sosa), the English-language Return to Love, and the French pop classics, Hommages. In 1997, she staged a high-profile Concert for Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. This concert was later released as an album, and aired as a TV special on PBS in the United States.
On 30 May 2013, Mouskouri was awarded an honorary degree by McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
UNICEF and politics:
Mouskouri was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in October 1993. She took over from the previous ambassador, the recently deceased actress Audrey Hepburn. Mouskouri's first U.N. mission took her to Bosnia to draw attention to the plight of children affected by Bosnian war. She went on to give a series of fund-raising concerts in Sweden and Belgium.
She was a Member of the European Parliament through the New Democracy party from 1994 until 1999, when she resigned from her position as an MEP. Several reasons have been given for this, one being her pacifism, and another being that she felt ill-equipped for the day-to-day work of a politician.
21st century and retirement:
Mouskouri lives in Switzerland with Chapelle, and, until her final performance in 2008, performed hundreds of concerts every year throughout her career. In 2004, her French record company released a 34-CD box set of more than 600 of Mouskouri's mostly French songs. In 2006 she made a guest appearance at that year's Eurovision Song Contest which was held, for the first time ever, in her native Greece.
In the same year, she announced her plans to retire. From 2005 until 2008, she conducted a farewell concert tour of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, South America, the United States, and Canada. 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, including Greece's Prime Minister and Athens mayor, plus the mayors of Berlin, Paris and Luxembourg, along with fans from around the world and thousands of her Athenian admirers.
In 2010, in response to the financial crisis in Greece, Mouskouri announced that she would forgo her pension to contribute to the country's recovery. She commented: "Everywhere I see stories about my country going bankrupt. And people are aggressive about it. It's frightening. And it's painful for me. Nobody wants their country to be treated badly. It's frustrating and very sad."
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.
The British comedian Benny Hill impersonated Mouskouri on The Benny Hill Show. Wearing a long dress, large glasses and long black hair, he talked and sang with a slow and quiet voice. He introduced a song with a long translation into English of all the events supposedly mentioned in the song... and then sang just a single line of "Greek".
This sketch from 1972 was later used as part of the 1974 compilation movie The Best of Benny Hill.
Andrea Martin played Mouskouri in a sketch, 'The Nana Mouskouri Story', during the 1981-1982 season of SCTV (later included in a DVD compilation.)
Nana Mouskouri Canta canciones populares griegas (1960),
I megales epitichies tis Nanas Mouskouris (Η μεγάλες επιτυχίες της Νάνας Μούσχουρης) (1961),
Ta prota mas tragoudia (Τα πρώτα μας τραγούδια) (1961),
Weiße Rosen aus Athen / The White Rose of Athens (1961),
Greece, Land of Dreams (1962),
The Girl from Greece (1962),
Roses Blanches de Corfu (1962),
Ce Soir à Luna Park (1962),
Crois-moi ça durera (1962),
Un homme est venu (1963),
Sings Greek Songs-Never on Sunday (1963),
Au Feu! (1964),
Celui que j'aime (1964),
Ich Schau Den Weissen Wolken Nach (1964),
The Voice of Greece (1964),
Chante en Grec (1965),
Nana Mouskouri et Michael Legrand (1965),
Griechische Gitarren mit Nana Mouskouri (1965),
Nana Mouskouri in Italia (1965),
Nana's Choice (1965),
Nana Sings (1965),
An Evening with Belafonte/Mouskouri (1966),
Le Cœur trop tendre (1966),
Strasse der hunderttausend Lichter (1966),
Nana Mouskouri in Paris (1966),
In Italia (1966),
Moje Najlepse grčke pesme -Yugoslavia- (1966),
Pesme Moje zemlje -Yugoslavia- (1966),
Un Canadien Errant (1967),
Un souvenir du congrès (1967),
Nana Mouskouri à l'Olympia (1967),
Chants de mon pays (1967),
Singt Ihre Grossen Erfolge (1967),
Le Jour où la Colombe (1967),
What Now My Love (1968),
Une soirée avec Nana Mouskouri (1969),
Dans le soleil et dans le vent (1969),
Over and Over (1969),
The Exquisite Nana Mouskouri (1969),
Mouskouri International (1969),
Grand Gala (1969),
Le Tournesol (1970),
Nana Recital 70 (1970),
Nana Sings Hadjidakis (Νάνα τραγουδά Μάνο Χατζιδάκη) (1970),
Turn On the Sun (1970),
Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970),
My Favorite Greek Songs (1970),
Song for Liberty (1970),
After Midnight (1971),
A Touch of French (1971),
Love Story (1971),
Pour les enfants (1971),
Comme un soleil (1971),
A Place in My Heart (1971),
Chante la Grèce (1972),
Lieder meiner Heimat (1972),
Xypna Agapi mou (1972),
Christmas with Nana Mouskouri (1972),
British Concert (1972),
Une voix... qui vivent du coeur (1972),
Spiti mou spitaki mou (1972),
Presenting... Songs from Her TV Series (1973),
Vieilles Chansons de France (1973),
Chante Noël (1973),
Day is Done (1973),
An American Album (1973),
Spotlight on Nana Mouskouri (1973),
Nana Mouskouri au Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (1974),
Que je sois un ange... (1974),
Nana's Book of Songs (1974),
The Most Beautiful Songs (1974),
Adieu mes amis (1974),
Le temps des cerises (1974),
If You Love me (1974),
The Magic of Nana Mouskouri (1974),
Sieben Schwarze Rosen (1975),
Toi qui t'en vas (1975),
Träume sind Sterne (1975),
At the Albert Hall (1975),
Quand tu chantes (1976),
Die Welt ist voll Licht (1976),
Eine Welt voll Musik (1976),
Lieder die mann nie vergisst (1976),
Nana in Holland (1976),
Songs of the British Isles (1976),
Love Goes On (1976),
Quand Tu Chantes (1976),
An Evening with Nana Mouskouri (1976),
Ein Portrait (1976),
La Récréation (1976),
The Three Bells (1976),
Une Voix (1976),
Glück ist wie ein Schmetterling (1977),
Star für Millionen (1977),
Geliebt und bewundert (1977),
Lieder, die die Liebe schreibt (1978),
Nouvelles chansons de la Vieille France (1978),
Les Enfants du Pirée (1978),
À Paris (1979),
Roses & Sunshine (1979),
Even Now (1979),
Vivre au Soleil (1979),
Sing dein Lied (1979),
Come with Me (1980),
Vivre avec toi (1980),
Die stimme in concert (1980),
Wenn ich träum (1980),
Alles Liebe (1981),
Je Chante Avec Toi, Liberté (1981),
Quand on revient (1983),
When I Dream (1983),
La Dame de Cœur (1984),
Live at Herod Atticus (1984),
I endekati entoli (1985),
Ma Vérité (1985),
Kleine Wahrheiten (1986),
Tu m'oublies (1986),
Why Worry? (1986),
Only Love (1986),
Love Me Tender (1987),
Con tutto il cuore (1987),
Tierra Viva (1987),
Du und Ich (1987),
Par Amour (1987),
A Voice from the Heart (1988),
The Magic of Nana Mouskouri (1988),
Concierto en Aranjuez (1989),
Tout Simplement 1&2 (1989),
Nana Mouskouri Singt die schönsten deutschen Weihnachtslieder (1989),
Only Love: The Best of Nana Mouskouri (1991),
Nuestras canciones 1 & 2 (1991),
Am Ziel meiner Reise (1991),
Côté Sud - Côté Cœur (1992),
Falling in Love Again: Great Songs from the Movies (1993),
Dix mille ans encore (1994),
Agapi in'i zoi (1994),
Nur ein Lied (1995),
Nana Latina (1996),
Return to Love (1997),
The Romance of Nana Mouskouri (1997),
Concert for Peace (1998),
Chanter la vie (1998),
Sentimiento latino (compilation 1998),
As Time Goes By (1999),
The Christmas Album (2000),
At Her Very Best (2001),
Songs the Whole World Loves (2001),
Fille du Soleil (2002),
Un Bolero Por Favor (2002),
Ode to Joy (2002),
The Singles+ (2002),
Nana Swings: Live at Jazzopen Festival (2003),
Ich hab'gelacht, ich hab'geweint (2004),
L'Intégrale Collection (34 CD Box Set) (2004),
A Canadian Tribute (2004),
I'll Remember You (2005),
Complete English Works Collection (17 CD Box Set) (2005),
Moni Perpato (2006),
Nana Mouskouri (Gold) (2 CD) (2006),
Le Ciel est Noir - Les 50 plus belles chansons (3 CD) (2007),
The Ultimate Collection (2007),
Les 100 plus belles chansons (5 CD) (2007),
50 Hronia Tragoudia (50 Years of Songs) (2007),
Alma Latina Todas sus grabaciones en español (5CD) (2008),
The Best Of (Green Series) (2008),
The Very Best Of (Readers Digest 4 CD-Box) (2008),
The Ultimate Collection / In Asia (Taiwan) (2CD) (2008),
The Greatest Hits: Korea Tour Edition (2 CD-Box) (2008),
The Singer (2008),
Nana Mouskouri - Best Selection (2009),
Nana Sings (reissue) (2009),
Nana Mouskouri: Les hits (2009),
Meine Schönsten Welterfolge vol. 2 (2CD) (2009),
Les n°1 de Nana Mouskouri (Edition Limitée) (2CD) (2009),
La más completa colección (2009),
Nana Mouskouri I (2009),
Nana Mouskouri: Highlights 娜娜穆斯库莉:精选 (2010),
As Time Goes By (Nana Mouskouri sings the Great Movie Themes) (reissue) (2010),
The Danish Collection (reissue) (2010),
Nana Jazz (2010),
My 60's Favourites (2010),
Mes Chansons de France (2010),
Nana Around the World (2010),
Ballads and Love Songs (2010),
Nana Country (2010),
Nana Mouskouri & Friends - Tragoudia apo Ellinika nisia (Songs from the Greek Islands) (2011),
Nana Mouskouri & Friends - Rendez-vous (French version) (2011),
Nana Mouskouri & Friends - Rendez-vous (German version) (2012),
Nana Mouskouri & Friends - Rendez-vous (English version) (2012),
Happy Birthday Tour (2014),
Chanter ma vie, by Nana Mouskouri, Grasset ed., 1989. ISBN 2-246-39211-X and ISBN 978-2-246-39211-8. (French),
Το όνομά μου είναι Νάνα (To onoma mou einai Nana) (My Name Is Nana), by Nana Mouskouri, Livani Publishing, 2006. ISBN 960-14-1341-3, ISBN 978-960-14-1341-9. (Greek),
Memoirs, by Nana Mouskouri, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 0-297-84469-5 and ISBN 978-0-297-84469-3. (English),
Mémoires: La fille de la chauve-souris, by Nana Mouskouri, XO Éditions, ISBN 2-84563-311-4 and ISBN 978-2-84563-311-7. (French),
Stimme der Sehnsucht: Meine Erinnerungen by Nana Mouskouri, translated by Ulrike Lelickens, Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf. ISBN 3-89602-848-0 and ISBN 978-3-89602-848-8. (German),
Poilly-Genoud, Audrey. Nana Mouskouri, une fragilité fondatrice: quelques notes éparses sur les lunettes de Nana Mouskouri. Paris: l'Harmattan, 2010 ISBN 978-2-296-12948-1