ATHENS — Demis Roussos, an internationally famous Greek singer known for both his heartfelt pop songs and his flamboyant clothes, died here on Sunday. He was 68.
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 an actress and dancer of Italian origin who found fame in Egypt performing under the name Nelly Mazloum. 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.