The Beloved Uncle Giannis (B)



The first part is at:

Giannis Papaioannou met the singer Odysseas Moschonas (Οδυσσέας Μοσχονάς 1912-1995) during the occupation of WW2. Moschonas says about their acquaintance:

“One day, it was in the time of the Occupation, Chatzichristos (a rebetican) comes and tells me to go to a tavern he had opened. Many musicians were there… There I met Papaioannou. A good composer, good fellow, but above all he had a great, very big heart. Once he heard me sing he said: ‘Moschonas, you are a very good singer, and when the record companies will be open again (after the war) the two of us will produce a good collboration and you will sing my songs.’ And so, it happened.” They would continue to collaborate for about 10 years.


“Those bad days of the occupation… in the place we worked there was always the fear, but the main thing is that we worked where we found food. Once the German left and liberty resumed, the famous center of Kalamatianou was opened… where all the ‘army of rebetiko’, all the famous names had passed. Once, two thousand people were there to listen to us and cheer; such glories nobody will know!”  After a while they worked in another famous place called “Triana”. Thousands would come to hear them from all over the world.

Musicians at “Triana” rebetiki4b

We have here four famous songs that Papaioannou had written for Odusseas Moschonas.

We begin with Papioannou’s most popular song “Before daybreak” (Πριν το χάραμα – 1948) with lyrics by Charalambos Vasileiadis. We will have two versions, one by Moschonas himself in his elderly days and the other by Dimitris Mitropanos, Dimitris Basis and Themis Adamantidis, with English subtitles. (Press CC)





You Will Regret It (Εσύ θα μετανιώσεις – 1949), lyrics: Kostas Manesis*


The Homecoming   (Ο γυρισμός – 1950) lyrics also by Giannis Papaioannou (caps)



Giannis Papioannou was the first Greek musician who tried his luck in the New World and travelled to America to sing mainly to the Greek immigrants. He was staying there for extended periods in 1953, 1956, 1960 and 1967. Many singers and musicians followed him. It looks that it paid off, but his returns were not easy. The artistic connections with his Greek audience weakened and so record companies and club owners were more reluctant to employ him. He also found nightclub visitors to be ruder. He continued to work in clubs and to record but much more slowly. Sometimes old friends who remembered his help in the past like Stelios Kazantzidis helped him to find his way when he returned. In 1968 he appeared in a club with the father of rebetiko, Markos Vamvakaris and later with Vasilis Tsitsanis.

Giannis Papaioanou died in a car accident on August 3, 1972 (59 years old) as he returned at dawn from work in a nightclub.

With Melina Mercouri ceb3ceb9ceb1cebdcebdceb7cf83-cf80ceb1cf80ceb1ceb9cf89ceb1cebdcebfcf85-002002

On Death and Life

The last two songs show how the Greek address Death; putting it on the table, and living to the fullest at the face of the inevitable destiny. I feel this is something that is uniquely Greek.

The first song is “Five Greeks in Hades” (Πέντε Έλληνες στον Άδη – 1947, lyrics by Kostas Manesis; this song was also recorded first by Moschonas)

Hades is the Greek underworld of ancient times. The five Greeks make fun there, smashing everything and bringing high spirits to all who reside there, and of course patriotism too.

Smashing plates, which many would immediately identify with Greeks, is  when the high spirit or the “Kefi”( κέφι) comes to the edge and has to materialize out of the person’s body. It is not surprising that its origin is a mourning custom in ancient Greece. In this video Glikeria sings while Krateros Katsoulis, an actor and TV host, dances the slow and heavy Zebekiko, with all participants in a “kefi”!


The second is an adaption that Papaioannou made to a Turkish song and it says: “Don’t think about money, money isn’t the key to happiness. Whether you have it or not, just enjoy life in the fullest, because some day you pass away and you can’t take it with you.”

Γλέντα τη ζωή ( Τι τα θέλεις τα λεφτά; ) Lyrics are by Vasilis Papadopoulos. Eleni Vitali is singing:






*I like very much this Dalaras version with Moschonas:


Links for part A and B


Many thanks to my dear friend Katerina Siapanta!






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