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The love walrus who sold 60 million albums

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Demis Roussos

Demis Roussos

AFP/Getty Images

Demis Roussos in 1973

Demis Roussos in 1973

AFP/Getty Images

Demis Roussos

Demis Roussos, the Greek singer who has died aged 68, became an unlikely heart throb in the 1970s when his album sales earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

His biggest success was in 1975 when he had five albums in the top 10 simultaneously, and in 1976, when his romantic ballad 'Forever and Ever' was No 1 in the single charts. Worldwide, he sold more than 60 million albums.

"My music came right on time," he told an interviewer in 2002. "It was romantic Mediterranean music addressed to all the people who wanted to go on holiday. My music was liked by the people... other artists of the same era, Mediterranean, like Julio Iglesias and Nana Mouskouri, followed me."

Incredibly to some, Roussos, who became known as "The Phenomenon", became seen as a sex symbol.

The mostly middle-aged female audiences at his sell-out concerts became as hysterical about his wobbling chins and zithery ballads as their teenage counterparts had been for The Beatles. He later recalled that women in the front row would try to grab his kaftans to see if he was wearing anything underneath (the answer, he claimed, was no).

Critics were less easily smitten. The Sun called him "The Big Squeak" and likened him to a cross between Mickey Mouse and Moby Dick. Others called him the "The Love Walrus". The Sunday Times said he sounded like a spaniel that had been kicked.

After two years of British hits, Roussos faded from view.

Artemios Ventouris Roussos was born to Greek parents on June 15 1946 in Alexandria, Egypt. The family was forced to flee Egypt for Greece during the Suez crisis of 1956, and as soon as he was old enough young Demis, learned guitar, trumpet and piano in school and began working as a cabaret musician to help his family make ends meet. His teen years coincided with a boom in the Greek tourism industry and he began singing in bars. By the mid-1960s he was performing covers of British and American pop hits with a band called The Idols.

In 1985 he made headlines again in Britain when he was held captive for a few days in Beirut after his flight from Athens to Rome was hijacked by Hizbollah militants. The press reported that he had sung to his captors (not true, said Roussos). In 2002 he enjoyed a mini-comeback when his 'Best of' collection, Forever And Ever, reached number 20 in the album charts and he undertook a tour of Britain.

Roussos was married and divorced three times and is survived by a daughter of his first marriage and by a son of his second. He died on January 25. ( Daily Telegraph)

Telegraph.co.uk