Greek Songs That Became Huge International Hits



The international music industry finally seemed to take its first notice of Greece during the turbulent decade of the 1960’s. International singers gave new, modern twists to the unique melodies of the country, while portraying an image of Greece as a sunny Mediterranean country with open-hearted, smiling, hospitable people who enjoyed life to the fullest.

This decade, known as one of the most prolific eras of popular music, marks the first time that Greek songs were adopted by international musicians and translated into their own languages.

For the first time, the songs of Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis were sung in English, French, and Italian by singers and bands such as the Beatles, Julie London and Eartha Kitt.

Even the likes of Ann Margaret, Johnny Mathis, Dalida, Edith Piaf and Caterina Valente had versions of Greek classic tunes. Manos Hadjidakis’ songs were even sung in Korean!

At the same time, jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Henry Mancini and others performed versions of Greek songs with their bands, or incorporated Greek melodies in their own improvisations.

Other Greek composers who had versions of their songs interpreted in foreign languages were Mimis Plessas (in Spanish by Claudia Delmet), Takis Morakis (in English by Sofia Loren and Julie London), Thanos Mikroutsikos (in Italian by Milva) and Nikos Xydakis (in Spanish by Claudia Delmer).

While living in Paris in the 1960’s, composer Giannis Spanos wrote the song “Sidonie” which was sung by Brigitte Bardot in the film “A Very Private Affair”. Quite recently, the French band Swift Squad adapted a composition of his from the 1971 hit film Ekeino to Kalokairi (“That Summer”).

British DJ and producer Frenic had a huge hit on Greek radio with an instrumental version of “San me Koitas” (When You Look at Me) called “All in Perspective” from the film of the same name. The tune was originally sung by Yiannis Fertis and Aphroditi Manou.

Last year, German singer Christian Ronig offered his own interpretations of songs by Vassilis Tsitsanis and Apostolos Kaldaras on an album called “Greece is Mine”. His voice is reminiscent of another lover of Greece and Greek culture, Leonard Cohen. (And speaking of Leonard Cohen, his song “Dance to the End of Love” could very easily have been a Greek song).

Another German musician, Rainer Kirchmann, collaborated with Greek singer Maria Farantouri on an album called “Ilios kai Xronos”, interpreting songs by great Greek composers.

American singer Jocelyn B. Smith released an album with songs by Mikis Theodorakis. More recently, Pink Martini, a pop swing band from Oregon, released a great version of “Ta Pedia Tou Peiraia” from the classic film “Never on Sunday”.

Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu also recently offered a great interpretation of “Paei Efyge to Traino” by Manos Hadjidakis.