Archive for August, 2011

The hidden legacy

August 6, 2011

Eftichia Papayannopoulou (Ευτυχία Παπαγιαννοπούλου) was an artful song lyricist. She was a beautiful, foxy and impulsive woman, who was passionate in love as in life and who lived in the moment. She was the voice of the emotions of the Greek people, like Zorbas.

Eftichia was born in 1896 in Aydin, Asia Minor (Turkey). She came to Greece after the disaster of 1922 – the deportation of millions of Greeks. She had a teacher’s diploma, but four years after her arrival she caught the acting bug and did not hesitate to break her marriage to join a theatre group. She kept acting for sixteen years. All that time she wrote poetry, on papers, on cigarette packs and on whatever she could find. Her granddaughter Rhea Maneli tells:

Eftichia always wrote, but she paid no attention. She wrote and threw it, tore it… Could have done some lyrics and because there were no matches she lighted the paper on the stove to light her cigarette.”

In the end of the 1940s  Eftichia wrote her first song that was set to music. Very quickly she began collaborating with many leading artists in Greek music. She preferred to get paid quick small amounts, and never had her lyrics credited to her name. They were instead attributed to their famous composer- singer buyers, who were happy to get credit on quality songs in a competitive world. “I write songs and I sell them. From there onwards I am not involved if they catch on or not, whether they come out or not come out on records. Once I deliver them I sign a statement of resignation from various rights, say, disown my intellectual children.” This was said in an interview in 1960, and revealed that some very famous songs were actually hers.

There were exceptions like Apostolos Kaldaras, the famous composer and songwriter who had a long cooperation with her. He was an upright person. “Eftichia, you will get your percentage”, he told her.

Eftichia’s way of life and her wasteful attitude to money did not make her an ideal mother. But she did love her children deeply. The death of her daughter in 1960 made a further sad and destructive impact on her, as she would later retell in an interview:

“Sit down. It may be my last interview and I want to tell everything. Do you know why I didn’t utilize so many hits economically? It is because after the death of my daughter in 1960, to forget, I turned to the cards. It was my catastrophe. Sleepless nights, inspirations, hard labour, all lost over the green felt, all had gone up in smoke.”

The writer Leftheris Papadopoulous, who wrote a book about Eftichia, tells of their close friendship:

“Eftichia Papayannopoulou … I remember her always with a scarf in her hair, looking at me lustfully and suddenly throwing me a couplet like ‘Forty days and one / I walked in the wilderness alone’ to see from the expression of my eyes if  I liked it and how much. And other times she insulted me as she said to me, with a hoarse voice, crushed from the cigarettes, ’I wish a pain was a person / so that we come to blows’, and I remained indifferent. And other times, again, she would repeat to me two verses for an entire morning to soften my soul because I was too worried: ‘I spent a whole night from life/ with my eyes closed”

Kaldaras said:”Eftichia was my mother, my spiritual mother. And you can say something more than that: she was my spiritual mistress. for indeed I loved her so much, loved and admired the temperament, her spirituality, her way of speaking… the poetic mood and humor that distinguished her throughout the years, until the end of her life. Eftichia Papayannopoulou is rightly among the top five in the pantheon of creators of our popular music. ”

Her generosity and disregard of fame in the ego-tripping world of show-business, and her tendency to sell her lyrics for little money, meant that despite the success of her songs she died poor in 1972 without the appropriate recognition. Now there are about 160 songs that are officially hers, and in addition an unknown number of songs that are still attributed to others. They are all here, her hidden legacy.

Like the eagle I had wings

And I flew

and I flew very high

but a beloved hand

an adored hand

cut me my wings

that I will not fly high

I‘m a wingless eagle

without love and joy

without love and joy

I’m a wingless eagle

This adored hand

throughout my life

throughout my life I will love

and all that she has done to me

I forgive

with broken wings

I’ll always love her

I‘m a wingless eagle

without love and joy

without love and joy

I’m a wingless eagle



“…Sometimes…pity had overcome me… pity not only on people but on the whole world that struggles, shouts, cries, hopes and doesn’t see that all is an illusion of the nothingness.” (Nikos Kazantzakis)

Efthechia’s words in a very popular song carry a similar message about life:

All is just a lie

breath in, breath out

like flower, some hand

will pick us one day



Eimai aetos horis ftera (Είμαι αϊτός χωρίς φτερά)  -I am an eagle without wings

Lyrics: Eftechia Papayannopoulou

Music: Manos Hatzidakis

Singing: Viky Moscholiou

To telefteo vrady mou (Το τελευταίο βράδυ μου) -my last night

Lyrics: Eftechia Papayannopoulou

Music: Stelios Kazandzidis

Singing: Stelios Kazandzidis

I  want to thank Nata Ostria for editing the translations of the songs and for Dany Matz for editing the English texts of all the posts.


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