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  • Writer's pictureGuy Hornsey

Nana Mouskouri - one of Eurovision's biggest stars

When it comes to big stars that have come out of the Eurovision Song Contest, Nana Mouskouri is up there with the biggest names. She represented Luxemberg in 1963 in the early stages of her career. From there she went on to sell over 300 million albums (including songs in 15 different languages).

Her iconic image of black hair and dark rimmed glasses would be recognisable to almost anyone, but outside of the look and her Eurovision appearances, how much do you know about Nana? We take a look at her Eurovision moments and her impressive career.

Mouskouri began her career studying music at the Athens Conservatoire, which she was forced to leave when her professor found out she had been singing with a jazz group at night time. Without the conservatory, the jazz clubs became her main focus, and it was there she was discovered by the renowned Greek song writer Manos Hadjidakis. He wrote a song for her to perform in the Greek Song Festival in 1959, which she won. The following year the pair teamed up for the festival again and again took out the main prize. That year she also entered and won the Mediterranean Song Festival, held in Barcelona.

In 1961 she performed the soundtrack for a German documentary about Greece, which produced the song ‘Weiße Rosen aus Athen (White Roses from Athens)’, which became a hit singe in Germany, and was later released in other languages and became one of her trademark hits.

Following the success of ‘White Roses of Athens’, Mouskouri was approached by Luxemberg to be their representative in the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest. Greece was not yet part of the contest and it made her the second Greek performer to take to the Eurovision stage. She performed a song called ‘À force de prier’, which was sung in French. The song placed 8th out of 16 entries, and received it’s highest points from France and Germany. While only coming in 8th in the contest, the song did see some commercial success and went on to win the French ‘Grand Prix du Disque’ award.

Her Eurovision appearance caught the attention of a number of composers, such as Michel Legrand and Harry Belafonte. She proceeded to release a number of hit records in French, English and Greek, which made her an international star. Her success lead to world tours, including the US, UK, Japan and Australia.

Another connection that Mouskouri made at Eurovision in 1963 was with Yvonne Littlewood from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Littlefield invited Mouskouri to make a number of appearances on the BBC in the years following the contest and eventually in 1968, she was asked to host her own television show on the network. ‘Presenting… Nana Mouskouri’ featured her performing songs in a number of languages (mostly English, French and Greek), and it became known for her (sometimes drawn out) introductions in English about the songs she was about to perform. The show was a success and was aired around the Commonwealth, Asia and South America. She also hosted TV shows in France and Germany, and continued to make specials for UK television throughout the 70’s and 80’s.

While continuing an active recording and touring schedule in the 90s, Mouskouri also became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1993, and held a seat in the European Parliament from 1994 to 1999 as part of the New Democracy Party.

In 2006 when Greece hosted the Eurovision Song Contest (following Helena Paparizou's win in 2005), Mouskouri made an appearance at the Grand Final, speaking to the hosts on stage. It came the same year that she announced her retirement and commencement of her Farewell Tour, which also came to Australia. In 2014 however she came out of her retirement for a ‘Happy Birthday’ world tour to mark her 80th Birthday, which spanned three years. In 2018 she again toured parts of Europe with a ‘Forever Young’ tour.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Mouskouri credited her 1963 Eurovision appearance with opening doors that lead to the career success that she enjoyed.

Perhaps Stafania will deliver Greece another win in 2021 and give Nana the chance to grace the stage in her home country again?


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