Vamvakaris Markos

He was born on May 10, 1905 in the settlement of Skali in Ano Chora of Syros from a Catholic family (for this reason he later acquired the nickname “Frank”). His parents were poor farmers and he was the eldest of six siblings. His grandfather wrote songs and his father played the ham, while from a young age little Marcos accompanied the latter playing toumpi (island drum) at various festivals. Due to the poor financial situation of his family, Marcos was forced to leave school and work as a polisher, newsboy, spinner, assistant in greengrocers, etc.

In 1917, at the age of 12, he left Syros, after he inadvertently threw a rock on the roof of a house and went to Piraeus, where he was later followed by his family. There he engaged in various professions, such as dock worker (loader and unloader, coal worker in the so-called “coal mines”) and from about 1925 to 1935 as a skinner in the municipal slaughterhouses of Piraeus and Athens.

At 21 he had his first marriage. He married Eleni Mavroidi, Zigoula as he called her.

At that time, according to his autobiography, he happened to hear Nikos Aivaliotis playing the bouzouki, a fact that caught up with him and changed his life and he started learning the bouzouki and writing his first songs.

In 1937 he reconciled with the censorship of the Metaxas regime and adapted his lyrics by removing the heavy hashish style, something which after years he recognizes as a creative change. He was so popular that on one of the three times he visited Thessaloniki and gave a concert, 50,000 people gathered to listen to him in the White Tower Square. In the song “To 1912” he praises Thessaloniki, while paradoxically until then he had not made a single reference to any of his songs about Piraeus, the city where he lived and created. During the Greek-Italian war he sang his own songs, but also those of Spyros Peristeris, with lyrics adapted to the Greek-Italian epic (“Hello our little soldiers”, “Benito’s dream” etc.

He died on February 8, 1972 at the age of 66, in the apartment where he lived in Nice, as a result of kidney failure caused by diabetes. The day after his death, he was buried in the Third Cemetery of Athens in Nicaea, where he was regularly buried in the presence of Catholic priests, although the Catholic Church had absolved him in 1966, due to his second marriage. According to a well-known TV show, his son Markos Domenikos, for his father’s funeral his family was forced to resort to a loan in order to cover her expenses.