Known as the “Greek Bruce Springsteen,” singer George Dalaras is one of Greece’s biggest contemporary music stars and a living folk legend. To mark his 71st birthday today, we take a look back at his life and musical achievements so far.
George Dalaras was born in Nea Kokkinia, Piraeus, Greece, on September 29, 1950, to a family of musicians. His father, Loukas Daralas, was a well-known bouzouki musician and a performer of rembetika music.
As a teenager, Dalaras — who inverted the third and fifth letters of his last name — played guitar and sang at Piraeus’ bouzoukia, or nightclubs, and made his recording debut in 1965 on his father’s rendition of “Wry Thorn.”
Dalaras soon began to cut his own records, releasing his first song, “Prosmoni” (Anticipation), in 1967. The song made indirect reference to Greece’s political turbulence and was instantly banned by authorities of the military junta that ruled the country from 1967 until the mid-1970s.
Since 1983, Dalaras has been married to Anna Ragousi, who is also his manager and a former politician who served with the PASOK government in 2009 and 2011. They have one daughter, Georgianna.
In 1972, Dalaras, along with singer Haris Alexiou, received his big break in the Greek music industry when their album “Μικρά Ασία” (Asia Minor) went gold, his first album to do so.
He also collaborated with Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, recording Eighteen Little Songs for the Bitter Homeland, whose text was based on the poems of Greek lyricist, Yiannis Ritsos.
Dalaras’ 1979 hit, “Paraponemena logia” (Saddened words), became the theme song for an entire generation of young Greeks.
Following that success, in the early 1980’s, Dalaras became the first musician to take modern Greek music from small local clubs to large concert halls and arenas. He performed two sold-out shows at the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium of Athens.
Today, Dalaras’ personal albums total beyond 70.
He has sold more than 15 million records in his career and is regarded as one of the biggest names in contemporary Greek music.
He has toured extensively throughout the world and was even invited to sing for Nelson Mandela on his birthday.
Always coupling music with social responsibility, Dalaras has supported causes associated with labour movements and discrimination. But his biggest concerns are those close to the heart of the Greek people.
In the early 1990’s, he turned his attention to northern Cyprus, occupied since 1974 by Turkish forces. Dalaras traveled to the United States to support the cause, holding a benefit concert at the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands of New Jersey.
Dalaras also became particularly interested in the Kurdish cause and spoke out against the war in Yugoslavia and the American bombing campaign.
The singer has since received the John F. Kennedy Award, presented by Senator Edward Kennedy, in recognition of his humanitarian work.
He was also named as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in October 2006.