Doyenne of Greek song leaves legacy

It wasn’t just her singing, but also her hearty laughter, bright eyes, down-to-earth character, and, of course, the feeling she poured into her unique trademark vocal delivery. The late Vicky Moscholiou, who passed away last week, was cherished for all these attributes and more. Though she became a national star, Moscholiou – who sang some of the sweetest songs written by the likes of Giorgos Zabettas, Stavros Xarchakos, Demos Moutsis, Apostolos Kaldaras and Akis Panou – remained the approachable girl next door. Contrary to the melodramatic hyperbole of many of her colleagues, Moscholiou’s expression of sorrow in her work stood with pride and austerity. Generations of Greek music fans grew up listening to Moscholiou over her four-decade career. Just months ago, in a television appearance, she had declared that she had won her battle against cancer, but her condition eventually deteriorated. Moscholiou, who eventually passed away on August 16 at the age of 62, fought a brave two-year battle against the illness. The artist was born on May 17, 1943 in the downtown district of Metaxourgeio, where she experienced a humble post-war upbringing. The young girl would often hear her mother tell her that she would, one day, become a «night owl.» «I slept all day and stayed awake at night… What else could the lady say?» Moscholiou once recalled. «She says that they used to get me drowsy by putting ouzo-soaked cotton wool on my head.» During her early years, Moscholiou often entertained herself by singing. Hard times prompted her to turn professional in her late teens. «When we had nothing, 150 drachmas was a lot of money,» she remarked, also recalling her father’s objection because of the profession’s notoriety. «He eventually gave his consent when I promised that I wouldn’t smoke and gamble.»  By early 1962, the 18-year-old Moscholiou had begun regular performances at a respected Athens club, the Triana. «[Grigoris] Bithikotsis, who was then at his prime, used to give me rides to and from the club. Doukissa [a fellow singer] also helped a great deal,» Moscholiou recalled. Other pillars in her career included Yiannis Karabessinis, Zabettas, as well as Xarchakos, who, in Moscholiou, found the voice he had been seeking for his song «Hathike To Feggari,» which featured in the 1964 film «Lola» by Dinos Dimopoulos. «It was winter time, and it had snowed. I was freezing as I sat on the window ledge during filming. I was very nervous, and, if that wasn’t enough, there was the director shouting: ‘I want passion, more passion!’ I was thinking: ‘What’s he on about?’ Luckily, they gave me a cigarette to hold on to. I wasn’t a smoker at the time, and the smoke which got into my eyes made my eyes water. Suddenly, I heard Dimopoulos shout out: ‘That’s it! Let’s go!’ That’s how that scene was shot,» Moscholiou had said. During her 40-year career, Moscholiou worked with many artists, including important Greek composers such as Xarchakos, Zabettas, Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hadjidakis, Apostolos Kaldaras, Demos Moutsis, Giorgos Spanos, Vassilis Tsitsanis, Stavros Kouyioumtzis and Christos Leontis. The late composer Hadjidakis had described Moscholiou’s singing as «the cello of Greek music.» Mutual admiration bonded Moscholiou with the famed songwriter Zabettas, a frequent collaborator. «Even if you made him play among a thousand bouzoukis, you’d immediately recognize his sound,» Moscholiou commented in an interview published by the magazine Music Corner in 2002. «He protected me by offering advice, and knew my parents very well. When I gave birth to my children [Rania and Evangelia] he would often visit with toys for them. They called him ‘Grandad.’» Moscholiou married the big love of her life, Greek soccer legend Mimis Domazos, in May 1967. But the player’s non-stop commitments, Moscholiou said, eventually destroyed their marriage. The couple’s love and divorce fascinated the country’s masses. «We didn’t have problems. The only problem was my problem… In other words, I loved my husband very much; he was my first love and I was unable to enjoy him,» Moscholiou commented in the Music Corner interview. «One week he’d be with Panathinaikos at the hotel, the next he’d be with the national side. I never got to see him. There was not a single Sunday when I wouldn’t go to the stadium,» she added. Highlighting her realistic approach to life, Moscholiou never hid her age – not even when she became a grandmother of three. «It would have been cheap and nasty for me to conceal that I’m a grandmother… I was maddened by joy when my little Vicky first called me ‘Granny,’» the singer said. Moscholiou considered the early 1970s, when she performed at intimate and sophisticated clubs in the downtown Plaka district known as «boites,» as her career’s best period. «When I went down to Plaka, the big money was still being made at the seaside nightclubs. I took the risk because I though it was the best thing to do. Things there were more theatrical. You had to be perfect because they didn’t eat, drink or smash plates. They just held a glass in hand, sat, and looked you in the eye,» she recalled. Comparing her heyday with the scene of today in a recent interview, Moscholiou had pointed out that contemporary acts were obsessed with the job’s commercial dimension. «A sense of warmth is missing today. I never looked at my profession commercially. When I emerged, singers did not get paid the kind of money that goes around today. I did this line of work because I liked interpreting good songs,» she said. «We sang for all Greeks, regardless of political party, financial situation, education or whatever else.»