Musical Notes: Nana Mouskouri

For the first time in the history of music tracks popular in the 1970s are outselling tracks produced today. Where are stars like Nana Mouskouri now? Born in 1934 the enchanting Greek chanteusse has sold 300 million records. Mouskouri recorded over 1,500 songs in fifteen different languages on 450 albums. Over a career spanning five decades she has been awarded more than 230 gold and platinum albums. This has made her the top female recording artiste of all time.

The daughter of a cinema projectionist and his usherette wife, Nana Mouskouri was born on the Greek island of Crete on October 13, 1934. Nana didn’t start her music lessons until she was twelve-years old. Throughout her short life she had played second fiddle to her sister Jennie who was considered the better singer of the couple’s two daughters.

Nana’s prodigious talent was honed to perfection by eight years study at the Conservatoire. Opportunity for her to take her end of year exams was denied because of Nana’s preference for jazz; she had been trained in classical and opera. Nana Mouskouri sang with a friend’s jazz group and got a radio slot before performing at the Zaki Club in Athens. She was a 23-year old when she cut her first label Fascination.


400963Her now familiar voice was soon to fascinate music lovers everywhere. The world began to sit up and take notice when she accepted an offer from a songwriter who wanted to compose for her. His Kapou Iparchi I Agapi Mou won first prize. This was followed by two similar successes but oddly enough her glittering career took off after her first prize achievement at Barcelona’s Mediterranean Song Festival in 1960 after which she signed a recording contract with Philips-Fontana.

A year later she performed Weiße Rosen aus Athen for a German documentary about Greece. It sold more than a million records in Germany and was later translated into several languages including English (The White Rose of Athens).

Nana is renowned for her heavy framed spectacles. During a 1966 tour with Harry Belafonte he suggested that she remove them for performances. Nana was horrified and told him she would quit if required to remove her glasses. She wore her glasses.

In Spain in particular but in other countries too she recorded Con Todo el Alma. This became an instant success throughout Latin America. In fact she recorded a great many albums reflecting Spanish life and romance. These included duets with Julio Iglesias and Mercedes Sosa.

The rest is history and the career repertoire of this remarkable performing star is by now encyclopedic. Nana Mouskouri married George Petsilas in 1961. This produced son Nicolas (1968) and daughter Hélène in 1970. George and Nana separated in 1974 and divorced in 1975. She remained single until 2003 when she married André Chapelle and now lives in Switzerland.

The White Rose of Athens

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