Nikos Xylouris

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Nikos Xylouris and Melina Merkouri

Nikos Xylouris was a popular Cretan singer and lyra player.

Xylouris was born in Anogia, Rethymno prefecture, on July 7, 1936. When he was just 5 years old, German soldiers invaded Crete (see the Battle of Crete) and destroyed his home town. The villagers were forced to flee and live in Mylopotamos valley until 1944.

After World War II, Xylouris left for the city of Heraklion to study but quickly dropped out of school and picked up the art of playing the lyra. At age 12, he was already playing at wedding feasts, baptism celebrations and festivals throughout Crete. By 1953, he was playing at club "Kastro" as a struggling young artist.

On May 21, 1958, Xylouris married Olympia Melampianaki with whom he had eloped as her parents would not consent to have their daughter marry a poor musician. The couple would have two children: Giorgis and Rinio. In November of 1958, Xylouris recorded his first song "A woman in black passed by" for Odeon. The song was a hit and Odeon had him back for more recordings.

By 1969, Xylouris built himself a name outside Crete and made the decision to relocate and continue his career in Athens. He sang the songs of his native Crete as well as songs by composer Yiannis Markopoulos. After 1974, he also sang songs by Stavros Xarchakos and poems of Georgios Seferis, the Nobel Prize winner, which he put into music. However, Xylouris never strayed far from his Cretan roots recording hits such as "Filedem", "Argalios" and re-recording a 1960s hit by Kostas Moundakis: "Pramateftis".

In 1979, Xylouris was at the height of his career when he was diagnosed with cancer. He went for treatment in New York and Athens but he died on February 8, 1980.