I begin with a song that moves me to tears every time in the last 30 years:
The song is “Don’t be angry with me, my eyes (my love)” (Μη μου θυμώνεις μάτια μου). The writer (lyrics and music) of this famous heart tearing Farwell song, a cornerstone in Greek Music, is Stavros Kougioumtzis (1932-2005).
As his wife Emilia tells in a short video, this song was created as inspiration fell on him out of “writers’ envy”. One day, in the beginning of the 1960s, Stavros heard in a record shop a new song composed by Manos Hatzidakis “I am an eagle without wings” (Είμαι αϊτός χωρίς φτερά). He was so impressed by the song so “He felt like doing something about it”, as Emilia put it. Then, within thirty minutes in a coffee shop “Don’t be angry with me, my eyes” was created.*
Stavros Kougioumtzis composed about 200 songs, most of them in the 1970s and the 1980s and for part of them he wrote the lyrics. About 50 of them are essential part of the Greek culture. The beautiful melody and the carefully chosen lyrics make them beloved by audience in and outside Greece. In my opinion they are a very good way to make acquaintance with Greek music.
Despite his popularity, being one of the most heard song writers, the feeling of “me” and “them”-the musical establishment, prevailed all his life. He felt a rejection on the side of important composers and their close circles that sometimes was aggressive. When a TV channel made a tribute concert to him in 1983, he felt that was a little bit late. “It was the first tribute after 20 years in the song. Until then I had written most of my songs, but nobody said to me a good word, except Nikos Gatsos. I was the dispossessed child of the song”
He was an introverted man. “Every time I speak I envy those who are silent”, he said once. He would prefer to stay at home with his beloved Emilia, to read books of poetry and to share company with poets, to play the piano, composing and later writing books, to listen to Beethoven sonatas and other classical piano piece but also to the Greek masters as Vamvakaris and Tsitsanis. And he loved to stroll in his hometown Thessaloniki. In its small allays and streets, to meet in coffee shops friends and to chat with them.
Kougioumtzis was a melancholic person, but I think that this melancholy was like a prism through which he felt in a sharper and clearer way a variety of people’s emotions around him and illnesses of society, all settled beautifully in his songs. He was considered a leftist, not so much politically who chases “big words” and against all rightists but a humanist who is interested in wellbeing of individuals…and justice. As one who was born in a refugee camp near the infamous prison Yedi Kule in Thessaloniki, whose mother was imprisoned for taking part in a strike, he knew what justice means. Justice flows out from every part of his body, said the writer Lefteris Papadopoulos.
So, let’s tell about his songs…
“I thank all the singers who sang my songs, but more than all I thank one, Giorgos Dalaras”
Kougioumtzis wrote his first song in 1960, and during the 1960s he was contributing songs to 45 rpm singles, some of them were very nice. In 1967 he moved to Athens and shortly after that history would be made as he met the singer Giorgos Dalaras. Out of about 200 songs that Kougioumtzis had created, about 80 were sung by Dalaras. It looks that each one of this two artists inspired the other and both inspired the world. Their careers are mutually interlinked; one can’t imagine a Dalaras’ concert without number of Kougioumtzis’ songs.
If “Don’t be angry” was born as a result of writer’s envy, the origin of this collaboration was a commercial competition. In 1967-68, Makis Matsas, the owner of the just established “Minos” recording company had the senses to feel that these two artists will be the right answer to “Columbia” which was ruling the popular music market. So he sent Dalaras, who was 18 to meet Stavros Kougioumtzis, who tells:
“We, I and my wife Emilia, were waiting anxiously to see the new kid with the peculiar voice whose tapes Makis Matsas had given to me two days before. But that night as he came I was alone. The face revealed a very good character. He was a timid young man. Giorgos sat next to the piano. I started awkwardly to press the keys. […] just as I heard his voice I was moved. I began to put into thinking that it is a voice with great sensitivity, lyricism, technique and above all authenticity. ”
And Giorgos Dalaras tells his side: “The moment Kougioumtzis played the piano and sang the first songs, I believed that they have been written especially for me. Not only for my voice, mainly for my soul. ”
Three songs about lost love
Kougioumtzis-Dalaras cooperation appeared firstly in 1968 on 45 singles.One of the records contained two famous songs. “The sky is becoming heavy” (Ο ουρανός φεύγει βαρύς) and “Where are all those years” (Πού “ναι τα χρόνια) which tells about lost love. I remember myself facing for the first time what looks like a contradiction in the Greek song between tempo and sadness. The song is rhythmic, but it is sad, as there is a game between sadness and optimism…and optimism wins…this is fascinating!
Giorgos Dalaras sings to the composer just few months before Kougioumtzis’ death. (Lyrics: Akos Daskalopoulos) press cc for English subtitles in all songs
The first album of this pair was in 1970, “If it were 21” (Να ‘τανε το 21), in which Kougioumtzis had already cooperated with top writers, writing himself the lyrics to three songs, as “Somewhere the night is falling”(Κάπου νυχτώνει); Here Kougioumtzis’ humanity is so tender and sensitive. The speaker has lost the beloved one, and two voices speak in his soul: the one “The road is lost and where can I stand” and the other “Somewhere evening comes, don’t cry it doesn’t matter/ Make believe that the world ends here”
The third song is the beloved “My happiness is a dash” (Ένας κόμπος η χαρά μου), from the 1971 album “When the lilacs are flowering” (Όταν ανθίζουν πασχαλιές), in which took part also Yannis Kalatzis. The song captured me since I first listen to it many years ago in one of Athen’s springy days and I always return to it as to a meeting with a good old friend…
Here Dalaras sings with Babis Stokas (Μπάμπης Στόκας) of the legendary Pix Lax (Πυξ Λαξ) group.(Lyrics also by Kougioumtzis)
A hymn to freedom
“The first dove” (Το πρώτο περιστέρι ) from the album “Heliometer” (Ηλιοσκόπιο-1973), in which takes part in singing also the composers’ wife, Emilia. All the songs are poems by Giorgos Themilis (Γιώργος Θέμελης 1900-1976)
Here the two creators turn to the epic;”a song about the struggle for liberation, that doesn’t come without a sacrifice, however.” (Katerina)
The second part of this post is at
The third part of this post is at
The sky is becoming heavy https://youtu.be/QoBlg-AMTBE
Many Thanks to Katerina Siapanda