IN REMEMBRANCE: 2-1-2015

ROSE MARIE McCOY, A SONGWRITER FOR ROCK, POP AND JAZZ LEGENDS

Rose Marie McCoy was a collaborator on some 850 songs.

But her songs, spanning R&B, rock ’n’ roll, jazz and gospel, were widely heard, recorded by scores of singers, including Big Maybelle, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Bette Midler, Elvis Presley, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sarah Vaughan.

“When the rock ’n’ roll come in, if you say you wrote rock ’n’ roll, everybody wanted to see,” Ms. McCoy recalled in the documentary, on National Public Radio in 2009. “They wanted to hear what you had. And if they liked it, they didn’t care whether you’re black or white. We thought it was the blues, and they used to call it rock ’n’ roll. I still don’t know the difference.”

When she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, the citation noted that in 2006, when American Songwriter magazine compiled a list of nine all-time great songwriters, she was the only woman.

Rose Marie Hinton was born on April 19, 1922, to Levi and Celetia Brazil Hinton in a tin-roof shack in Oneida, Ark. — “the kind of place you pass through without even knowing you’re passing through it,” Ms. McCoy said. Her father was a farmer. In 1942, when she was 19, she ventured to New York with $6 in her pocket to launch a singing career.

Living in Harlem and supporting herself by ironing shirts in a Chinese laundry in New Jersey, she got gigs at nightclubs and eventually at Harlem’s Baby Grand, Detroit’s Flame Show Bar, Cincinnati’s Sportsmen’s Club and Toronto’s Basin Street, and opened for seasoned performers like Ruth Brown, Moms Mabley, Dinah Washington and Dewey Markham, who was known as Pigmeat.

In her spare time, she wrote songs.

“After All” was recorded in 1946 by the Dixieaires with Muriel Gaines. In the early 1950s, she was signed to Wheeler Records and co-wrote “Gabbin’ Blues,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart. She began collaborating with Charlie Singleton, meeting at 6 o’clock in the morning in a booth at Beefsteak Charlie’s, near the Brill Building, the music industry temple in Midtown Manhattan.

They wrote the 1954 ballad “Trying to Get to You” for the Eagles, a black vocal group, but RCA Records signed another young singer after he agreed to include the song in his repertoire.

“We thought he was terrible because we thought he couldn’t sing,” Ms. McCoy recalled.

Ms. McCoy began her career an aspiring singer before she started writing songs for others. Credit James J Kriegsmann

The singer was Elvis Presley.

“Thank God for Elvis,” she told Joe Richman of Radio Diaries in the NPR documentary, titled “Lady Writes the Blues.” The song concludes:

Lord above you knows I love you

It was He who brought me through

When my way was dark at night,

He would shine His brightest light.

When I was trying to get to you.

By 1961, when she collaborated on Ike and Tina Turner’s “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” which earned them a Grammy nomination for best performance, she had her own office in the Brill Building. The song includes the lines:

Darling, it’s time to get next to me

Darling, I never thought that this could be

Your lips set my soul on fire

You could be my one desire

Oh darling, I think it’s gonna work out fine.

In the 1970s, Ms. McCoy wrote jingles, including one sung by Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles for Coca-Cola. As recently as a few years ago, she collaborated on a country album with Billy Joe Conor.

Ms. McCoy married James McCoy, a supervisor at the Ford Motor Company, in 1943. He died in 2000. She lived in Teaneck, N.J., until several years ago, when she joined a niece, Helen Brown, in Illinois. She died in Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Ms. Brown said.

In the radio interview, Ms. McCoy said she would still wake up in the middle of the night with whole new songs in her head.

“I should’ve got up and wrote it down,” she said. “But you say, ‘What’s the use? Like, I’m retired now.’ ”

SOURCE

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CARL DJERASSI, A CREATOR OF THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL

Carl Djerassi, one of the main developers of the birth control pill, has died.  Credit Boris Roessler/European Pressphoto Agency

His son, Dale, said the cause was complications of liver and bone cancer.

Dr. Djerassi (pronounced jer-AH-see) arrived in America as World War II engulfed Europe, a 16-year-old Austrian Jewish refugee who, with his mother, lost their last $20 to a swindling New York cabdriver. He wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, asking for assistance, and obtained a college scholarship. It was a little help that made a big difference.

Dr. Djerassi wrote books, plays and 1,200 scientific articles; taught at universities for five decades; created an artists’ colony in California; and obtained a patent on the first antihistamine. His work on the science of birth control helped engender enormous controversies and social changes, altering sexual and reproductive practices, family economics and the working lives of millions of women around the world.

While never a household name, Dr. Djerassi was often called the father of the pill. But it was something of an exaggeration. He did not invent the commercial birth control pill, and he was only one of many scientists working over decades who pioneered the chemical bases of what would become the pill.

And even on the day of the breakthrough, he was one of two chemists working with a student assistant at a small pharmaceutical laboratory in Mexico City who first synthesized a progestin called norethindrone, which became the key ingredient of the pill. It was on Oct. 15, 1951 — one of those dates recorded for posterity — a year before others created similar compounds.

Scientists had long known that high levels of estrogen and progesterone inhibited ovulation. But synthesizing them from animal or plant extracts had proved expensive and ineffective for use as oral contraceptives.

The synthesis by Dr. Djerassi and his colleagues, Dr. George Rosenkranz and the student, Luis E. Miramontes, was economical and effective for oral use. All three names went on the patent.

At first, the team deemed it a breakthrough for fertility, not birth control. While its significance as a pregnancy inhibitor was soon recognized, five years of trials were needed to demonstrate its relative safety and effectiveness. Even then, drug companies were reluctant to market the pill, fearing boycotts of their products by religious groups and others opposed to birth control.

In the 1960s, however, the pill — based also on pioneering work by M. C. Chang, Gregory G. Pincus, John Rock and others, and technically known as the combined oral contraceptive pill — was developed and marketed by various drug companies. They included Syntex, where Dr. Djerassi and his colleagues had worked.

Use of the pill spread rapidly, producing vast economic and social effects. It gave women unprecedented control over fertility, separating sex from procreation. It let couples plan pregnancies and regulate family size, and women plan educations and careers. It also generated debates over promiscuity and the morality of birth control. The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, emphasized its bans on artificial contraception.

Over the years, Dr. Djerassi lectured widely to promote the pill and faced controversies over possible side effects, including increased risks of blood clots, cancer and excessive bleeding during menstruation. He dismissed such claims, but estrogen and progestin doses in the pill were later reduced to cut the risk of side effects.

The pill made Dr. Djerassi wealthy and something of a celebrity as he moved through a series of careers as a professor of chemistry, an insect-control entrepreneur, an art collector, a rancher, an author of science novels and nonfiction books, a poet, a playwright and the founder of an artists’ colony.

“Yes, I am proud to be called the father of the pill,” he told Nicholas Wroe of The Guardian in 2000. “But identifying scientists is really only a surrogate for identifying the inventions or discoveries. Maybe it is true that Shakespeare’s plays would never have been written if it wasn’t for Shakespeare. But I’m certain that if we didn’t do our work, then someone else would have come along shortly afterwards and done it.”

Carl Djerassi was born in Vienna on Oct. 29, 1923, to Samuel and Alice Friedmann Djerassi. His parents were physicians who divorced when he was 6. A brilliant student, he attended schools in Vienna and summered in Sofia, Bulgaria, where his father specialized in treating venereal diseases before penicillin.

In 1938, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria and 70,000 Austrian Jews and Communists were quickly rounded up, the elder Dr. Djerassi returned to Vienna and remarried his wife in order to take her and Carl out of the country. The marriage was soon annulled, and Carl and his mother made their way to America in 1939, settling in upstate New York, where his mother worked in a group medical practice. His father emigrated to the United States in 1949.

With a scholarship arranged through Mrs. Roosevelt’s intercession, Carl briefly attended Tarkio College in Missouri, then earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in chemistry at Kenyon College in Ohio in 1942, when he was not quite 19. In 1945, he earned a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin and became a naturalized American citizen.

Over the next four years, Dr. Djerassi was a chemist for Ciba, a Swiss pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, where he received a patent for developing Pyribenzamine (tripelennamine), the first commercial antihistamine.

His marriage to Virginia Jeremiah ended in divorce in 1950. He and Norma Lundholm were married that same year and had a son, Dale, and a daughter, Pamela, who committed suicide in 1978. That marriage ended in divorce in 1976.

Diane Middlebrook, whom he married in 1985, died in 2007. Besides his son, he is survived by a stepdaughter, Leah Middlebrook, and a grandson, Alexander Djerassi.

In 1949, Dr. Djerassi became associate director of research at Syntex in Mexico City, where he studied the uses of cortisone, as well as menstrual disorders and cancer.

After his breakthrough work on the first synthetic oral contraceptive, he became a professor of chemistry at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1952. In 1959, he joined the faculty at Stanford University, where he taught until retiring in 2002.

In 1959, he also became president of Syntex Laboratories in Mexico City and Palo Alto, Calif., a connection that made him wealthy. In Woodside, Calif., near Palo Alto, he bought 1,200 acres, started a cattle ranch and began collecting art, particularly paintings by Paul Klee, the German-Swiss Expressionist.

In 1968, Dr. Djerassi founded Zoecon, a company that developed insect controls using modified insect growth hormones to prevent metamorphoses from larval to pupal and adult stages.

In 1979, after the death of his daughter, who was an artist, Dr. Djerassi turned half of his cattle ranch into an artists’ colony with housing and studios for scores of visual and performing artists, writers, playwrights, choreographers and composers.

Dr. Djerassi wrote many books on scientific subjects, including optics, steroids and the pill; a book on the politics of contraception; and several memoirs, including one published last year, “In Retrospect: From the Pill to the Pen.” Starting in the late 1980s, he also wrote novels, including what he called “science-in-fiction,” which focused on the ethics of modern scientific research and the conflicts that scientists face in their quest for knowledge and recognition.

He also wrote a number of plays that were produced in Europe, Asia and America, including Off Broadway productions of “An Immaculate Misconception: Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” “Taboos,” “Three on a Couch” and “Phallacy.”

Dr. Djerassi, who also had homes in Vienna and London, received 34 honorary doctorates and a score of professional and government awards, including the National Medal of Science (chemistry), the nation’s highest science honor, presented by President Richard M. Nixon in 1973, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest technology award, presented by President George Bush in 1991.

Correction: January 31, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the relationship to Dr. Djerassi of one of his survivors, Leah Middlebrook. She is his stepdaughter, not his stepsister.
Correction: February 1, 2015
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this obituary misstated the year that Dr. Djerassi’s memoir “In Retrospect: From the Pill to the Pen” was published. It was last year, not this year.
SOURCE
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ROD McKUEN, A POET AND LYRICIST WITH VAST FOLLOWING

Mr. McKuen was once described as “the unofficial poet laureate of America.”

Mr. McKuen, who died at a rehabilitation center, had been ill with pneumonia, his half brother, Edward McKuen Habib, told The Associated Press. Information on other survivors was not available.

Mr. McKuen, whom The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture described as having been, at his height, “the unofficial poet laureate of America,” was the author of dozens of books of poetry, which together sold millions of copies.

For a generation of Americans at midcentury and afterward, Mr. McKuen’s poetry formed an enduring, solidly constructed bridge between the Beat generation and New Age sensibilities. Ranging over themes of love and loss, the natural world and spirituality, his work was prized by readers for its gentle accessibility while being condemned by many critics as facile, tepid and aphoristic.

Mr. McKuen’s output was as varied as it was vast, spanning song lyrics, including English-language adaptations (“Seasons in the Sun”) of works by his idol, Jacques Brel; music and lyrics, as for “Jean,” from the 1969 film “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination; and musical scores, including that of the 1973 television film “Lisa, Bright and Dark.” He also appeared as a singer on television, on many recordings and in live performance.

Rod McKuen’s output ranged from films to TV to books. Credit David Redfern/Redferns, via Getty Images

“There was a time not long ago when every enlightened suburban split-level home had its share of Rod McKuen,” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in a 2002 profile. “His mellow poetry was on the end table (‘Listen to the Warm’), his lovestruck music and spoken-word recordings were on the hi-fi and his kindly face was on the set, on ‘The Tonight Show’ and Dinah Shore’s variety hour.”

“Some flowers on the table in a jar,/a few have dropped their petals,/A few more brave it on,” Mr. McKuen wrote in “après vous,” an unpublished poem from 1987 that appears on his website, rodmckuen.com. It continues:

Your dress arches, falls across a chair-back,

My socks, your underwear are left unreconciled,

confetti scattered pre-parade.

Crumpled bills, some pennies and a quarter from

Mr. McKuen’s album “Beatsville” (1959). Credit Hi Fi Records

an out-turned pocket make a still-life

where they spilled.

Mr. McKuen’s verse found little favor with reviewers.

“What McKuen guarantees is that a certain California sexual daydreaming can be yours for the asking even if you do move your lips rapidly as you read,” Louis Cox sniped in The New Republic in 1971.

But while he may never have won critical laurels, his lyrics were esteemed by many renowned performers. Frank Sinatra released the album “A Man Alone: The Words and Music of McKuen” in 1969; Mr. McKuen’s songs were also recorded by Johnny Cash, Perry Como, Petula Clark, Barbra Streisand and many others.

Rodney Marvin McKuen was born in a charity hospital in Oakland, Calif., on April 29, 1933. He never knew his biological father, and he was reared by his mother and an abusive alcoholic stepfather. After making several attempts to run away, he left home for good at 11. Over the years, he worked throughout the American West at a series of odd jobs that might well have come from the pages of a John Steinbeck novel — ranch hand, disc jockey, railroad worker, rodeo cowboy and newspaperman.

Mr. McKuen on Stanyan Street in San Francisco, after which he titled a song. Credit Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

Settling in San Francisco in the 1950s, he began writing poetry, delivering his work at readings alongside the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; Mr. McKuen also sang at Bay Area nightclubs and was briefly a contract player at Universal Pictures. He later lived in Paris, where he became a close associate of Brel’s.

Although poetry and songwriting gave Mr. McKuen a partial outlet for the pain of his childhood, there was an aspect of his youth that he could not speak of until many years later — sexual molestation by an uncle and aunt.

“The fact that my stepfather had beaten me up when I was a kid wasn’t hard for me to talk or write about,” Mr. McKuen told People magazine in 1982. “I had both arms broken and my ribs caved in several times, but physical injuries on the outside heal. Before now, though, I have never been able to come forward and talk about having been sexually abused when I was a child. Those scars have never healed, and I expect they never will.”

He was the author of a well-received memoir, “Finding My Father: One Man’s Search for Identity” (1976), about his quest for his biological heritage.

If critical acceptance eluded Mr. McKuen, by his lights it did not matter. He lived for many years in Beverly Hills, in what The Chicago Tribune described as an “eight-bedroom, 15,000-square-foot mansion filled with more than 100,000 CDs and half a million records.”

It was his robust commercial success that had soured the critics, he said.

“I only know this,” Mr. McKuen told The Chronicle in 2002. “Before the books were successful, whether it was Newsweek or Time or The Saturday Evening Post, the reviews were always raves.”

SOURCE

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COLLEEN McCULLOUGH, AUTHOR OF ‘THE THORN BIRDS’

Colleen McCullough in 1997. Credit Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

The cause was believed to have been kidney failure, her agent, Michael V. Carlisle, said. Ms. McCullough had been in declining health with a variety of ailments in recent years.

Published in 1977 by Harper & Row, “The Thorn Birds” is set against the sweeping panorama of the author’s native land and was described often in the American news media as an Australian “Gone With the Wind.” Spanning much of the 20th century, it centers on Meggie, the beautiful wife of a loutish rancher, and her illicit affair with Father Ralph, a handsome Roman Catholic priest.

“The Thorn Birds,” which has never been out of print, has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 20 languages. In hardcover, it spent more than a year on the New York Times best-seller list; the paperback rights were sold at auction for $1.9 million, a record at the time.

Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward in a scene from the 1983 ABC mini-series “The Thorn Birds,” based on Colleen McCullough’s novel. Credit ABC

The book was the basis of a 10-hour television production starring Richard Chamberlain as Father Ralph and Rachel Ward as Meggie. First broadcast in 1983 on ABC, “The Thorn Birds,” which also starred Christopher Plummer, Barbara Stanwyck and Jean Simmons, is among the most-watched mini-series of all time.

“The Thorn Birds” was only the second novel by Ms. McCullough, who, forsaking her scientific career, would write more than 20, though none sold nearly as well. Her most recent, “Bittersweet,” about the lives and loves of four sisters in Depression-era Australia, appeared last year.

Ms. McCullough’s fiction was prized by readers for its propulsive plots, sympathetic characters and sheer escapist potential. Its critical reception was mixed; reviewers took the author to task for sins ranging from stilted dialogue to the profligate use of exclamation points.

“ ‘Don’t be bitter, Meggie,’ ” Father Ralph says in “The Thorn Birds.” ” ‘No matter what’s happened to you in the past, you’ve always retained your sweetness and it’s the thing about you I find most endearing. Don’t change, don’t become hard because of this. … You wouldn’t be my Meggie anymore.’

“But still she looked at him half as if she hated him. ‘Oh, come off it, Ralph! I’m not your Meggie, I never was!’ ”

Negative reviews did not appear to faze Ms. McCullough, whom The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a 1996 profile, described as “a woman supremely unafflicted by self-doubt.”

“I think in their heart of hearts all these people know that I’m more secure than they are, more confident than they are and smarter than they are,” she said of her critics in a 2007 interview on Australian television. In her nearly four decades in the limelight, it was one of her few printable replies on the subject.

Nearly everything about Ms. McCullough had unrestrained heft: her voice, her laugh, her frame, her opinions, the blizzard of cigarettes she smoked each day and, most conspicuously, her books. “The Thorn Birds” clocked in at 533 pages. Titles in her “Masters of Rome” series, a seven-volume cycle set in the ancient world, could run far longer: The inaugural entry, “The First Man in Rome” (1990), spanned 896 pages, some 100 of them devoted to a glossary.

Her profusion was matched by her speed. On a typical day, Ms. McCullough said, she might produce 15,000 words; on a very good day, 30,000. Her facility was all the more noteworthy in that she continued to use an electric typewriter well into the computer age.

“I spell perfectly,” she told The Inquirer in the 1996 article. “My grammar’s very good. My sentence construction is excellent. So I don’t have a lot of mistakes.”

In recognition of meritorious service to her homeland, Ms. McCullough was named an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006. The country had named her to its list of 100 living national treasures in 1997.

“I gather I was one of the top 13,” Ms. McCullough told The Press of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2000. (The list was published in alphabetical order; Ms. McCullough is No. 59.) “In Australia I’m an icon, and it’s an interesting thing to be.”

But as Ms. McCullough made clear between the lines of interviews, and more overtly in “Life Without the Boring Bits,” her volume of memoiristic essays published in 2011, what passed for ample self-assurance was in fact the product of ample sorrow.

Colleen Margaretta McCullough was born in Wellington, in the Australian state of New South Wales, on June 1, 1937. Hers was a brutish family: Her father was an itinerant sugar cane cutter of savage temperament, her mother a cold, withholding woman. The couple fought constantly; after her father’s death in the 1970s, Ms. McCullough said, he was discovered to have had “at least two” other wives simultaneously.

In this maelstrom, Colleen and her younger brother, Carl, both bright, sensitive and bookish, grew up.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Ms. McCullough’s memoir quotes her father’s telling her. “Get out and get a job as a mangle hand in a laundry. That’s all you’re good for — you’ll never get a husband, you’re too big and fat and ugly.”

Carl fared no better at his father’s hands. In 1965, at 25, he drowned in the sea off Crete. His death was considered an accident, but a letter he wrote to Ms. McCullough, which arrived afterward, made her suspect he had committed suicide. Even half a century later, she could talk about his death only with extreme difficulty.

As a girl, Ms. McCullough dreamed of becoming a doctor. She entered medical school at the University of Sydney but was forced to abandon her studies after she developed a severe allergy to the soap widely used in Australian hospitals. She trained instead in neurophysiology, which is concerned with testing for and diagnosing neuromuscular diseases.

In the late 1960s, after working at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, Ms. McCullough accepted a position as a neurophysiological research assistant at the Yale School of Medicine. Discovering that she was being paid less than her male colleagues there, she cast about for another source of income.

“I loved being a neurophysiologist, but I didn’t want to be a 70-year old spinster in a cold-water walk-up flat with one 60-watt light bulb, which is what I could see as my future,” she told The California Literary Review in 2007.

Interested in writing since girlhood, she took to her typewriter. Her first novel,  “Tim,” about the tentative romance between a middle-aged professional woman and a younger, mildly retarded man, was published in 1974 to enthusiastic notices if unspectacular sales. (The book became a feature film in 1979, with Piper Laurie and Mel Gibson in the lead roles.)

In 1970, Ms. McCullough’s Yale colleague, the classicist Erich Segal, had scored spectacular success with his novel “Love Story.” Inspired, Ms. McCullough interviewed Yale students to discover what they liked about it. Their answers — romance, characters, plot — combined with her own Australian background, spawned “The Thorn Birds.”

Before the book’s publication, Ms. McCullough had planned to move to London to study nursing. Afterward, she found she could not.

“I don’t believe a patient would appreciate the idea of having a millionaire nurse carrying the bedpan,” she told The New York Times in 1977.

Ms. McCullough left Yale that year and eventually returned to Australia. Refusing to inhabit the same continent as her mother, she settled on Norfolk Island, a verdant, 13-square-mile fleck of Australian territory — population roughly 2,000 — a thousand miles northeast of Sydney.

She drew unwelcome attention in 1987 with the publication of her novella “The Ladies of Missalonghi,” about an impecunious woman in early-20th-century Australia. As some critics pointed out, the book’s plot, characters and narrative details strongly resembled those of “The Blue Castle,” a 1926 novel by L. M. Montgomery, the author of “Anne of Green Gables.”

Ms. McCullough, who said that she had read “The Blue Castle” in childhood, swatted away charges of plagiarism.

“I am not a thief,” she told The Daily Mail, the British newspaper, in 1988. “Neither am I a fool. I have too many wonderful ideas of my own to have to steal from another writer.”

Ms. McCullough’s survivors include her husband, Ric Robinson; two stepchildren, Wayde Robinson and Melinda MacIntyre; and two step-grandchildren.

Her other novels include “A Creed for the Third Millennium” (1985), set in a dystopian future; “Morgan’s Run” (2000), about 18th-century Australia; “The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet” (2008), a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” starring the middle Bennet sister, to whom Jane Austen had paid scant attention; and a series of crime novels featuring Carmine Delmonico, a detective in 1960s Connecticut.

Over the years, Ms. McCullough was often asked what she thought of the “Thorn Birds” mini-series, watched by more than 100 million people.

Her response packed her usual pith and punch.

“I hated it,” she told People magazine in 2000. “It was instant vomit.”

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DEMIS ROUSSOS; GREEK SINGER WAS INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN

Demis Roussos, a member of Aphrodite’s Child, pictured in 1973. In his 50-year career, he sold more than 60 million records. Credit Michel Clement/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He was suffering from cancer, his daughter Emily told the French newspaper Le Figaro in confirming the death.

The news of Mr. Roussos’ death prompted a wave of tributes from Greek artists, including the composer Vangelis Papathanassiou, best known by his first name, with whom Mr. Roussos formed the progressive rock band Aphrodite’s Child in 1967.

“Nature gave you this magic voice which made millions of people around the world very happy,” Vangelis said on Monday.

That was not an understatement. Mr. Roussos sold more than 60 million records in a career of nearly 50 years.

Born Artemios Roussos in Alexandria, Egypt, on June 15, 1946, he spent his formative years listening to jazz and to traditional Arab and Greek folk music and began singing in the local Orthodox Church choir. His mother, Olga, was a singer. His father, George, was an engineer who played classical guitar.

“My father had it, my mother had it; we wanted to entertain people,” Mr. Roussos once said in an interview.

In 1961 his family left Egypt for Greece, where Mr. Roussos joined his first band, the Idols, and met Vangelis. In 1967, in a quest for both artistic and political freedom after a military dictatorship seized power in Greece, the two men set off for London; on the way they settled in Paris, which became a second home.

Mr. Roussos’ biggest hits include the mildly psychedelic “Rain and Tears,” recorded in Paris with Vangelis during the student protests of May 1968, and the intensely emotional ballad “Forever and Ever,” which cemented his solo career. When his “Forever and Ever” was featured in the English television play “Abigail’s Party,” by Mike Leigh, in 1977, it made Mr. Roussos a household name in Britain.

His voice, pleading and melancholic, was unmistakable, and so was the figure he cut: Rotund for much of his career, he had a full beard and long hair and a colorfully audacious wardrobe, including knee-high leather boots, strings of beads and the garish caftans that became his trademark.

In an unusual moment in the spotlight, Mr. Roussos was one of 153 people taken hostage in 1985 when Lebanese militants hijacked TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome and forced the aircraft to land in Beirut. He spent five days on the plane, including his 39th birthday, and was released unharmed.

In September 2013, Mr. Roussos was awarded a French Legion of Honor medal for his life’s work. Survivors include his wife, Marie; his daughter, Emily; his son, Cyril; and his brother, Costas.

Correction: February 21, 2015
An obituary on Jan. 30 about the Greek singer Demis Roussos referred incorrectly to his mother, Olga. She was of Greek origin, not Italian, and she was not the same person as the actress and dancer Nelly Mazloum, and she never performed under that name.

SOURCE

Many people in America did not know of Mr. Demis Roussos but he was well-known in England and his native Greece.

Unbeknownst to many Americans, they first heard his stirring vocals in the Ridley Scott movie Blade Runner. In the following videos, he sings on the track Tales of the Future:

He was a unique and fascinating artist.

Rest in peace, Mr. Demis Soussos.

Rest in peace.

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