George Zabetas: Unknown stories behind legendary songs

Unspeakable, unspoiled (but without offending), humorist and excellent lychoplocos. The master, the most famous bouzouki, had his own literary style and gave a theatricality to the songs intended for film or album. The bouzouki was the extension of the hand of the great musician. “All my problems, with the bouzouki I discussed them. He is my soul, I have given him the whole,” George Zabetas himself said. George Zabetas died 32 years ago, on March 10, 1992, but his music and work will never die. Even today we’re snorting his shots. From “The Nigger”, “The Goodest the Student”, “Where ‘is Thanasis’ and “The Struggle” to “Stalia-Stalia” and “Yes, sir”. The bouzouki, Tsitsanis and Egaleo City George Zabetas was born on 25 January 1925 at Plato Academy, while his family came from Kythnos. His parents were Michael Zabetas, who was a barber and Marika Moraitis, niece of a well-known baritone of the time. From a very early age George Zabetas showed great interest in music, since alongside his employment in his father’s barbershop as an assistant, he secretly “scapped” his first tunes in bouzouki. His acquaintance in 1938 with Vasilis Tsitsanis is decisive for the formation of his artistic personality. In 1940 the Zabetta family moved to Egaleo and from that moment on Zabettas acquired an unbreakable bond with the city, of which he was inspired and gave the nickname “City, ” during a tour of Britain. In Davakis Square in Egaleo there is the bust of George Zambeta, which Cypriot sculptor George Mavrogenis created. This is how Egaleo decided to honor the special love that the master of the folk song had with the region. In 1942 and under conditions of poverty due to the Occupation, Zabetas created his first band, with which they sang candades to the girls. Entertainment centers and cinema Collaborations with great musicians will follow: Batis, Vamvacari, Papaioannou, Hatziheristo, Tsitsani etc. In ’52 he recorded his first song “Like today” with Ceausakis, but “world break” is done in ’54 with “I left hi”, in Virvu lyrics and performer Kazantzidis. A lot of songs follow. His success peaks in the ’60s -’70s. A special chapter in his career was his collaboration as a soloist with Hatzidakis, Theodorakis, Xarchakos, Plassa, Mamagaki, Kougioumtzis, Markopoulos etc. His source talent and amazing playing along with his special style established him as a unique “showman” in the space. He played, he sang, he talked, he smoked, but he also… he cut off traffic. “Zabettas as a composer fits into the top ten of the great figures of our rebetiko and folk song. As a bouzouktsis he was the best, in terms of personal sound, but as a showman he was unique. An artist who had been born in America would probably star in the world scene!”. This is what Lefteris Papadopoulos believed about Zabetta. Over the next decade his songs know tremendous success. He makes appearances in the most important folk entertainment centers, while travelling to Europe and America and also participates in more than 160 films of the flourishing Greek cinema at the time. His creations such as “The sunsets”, “The dawns”, “He has no way to go” etc. remained unsurpassed and classify him to the highest levels of the musical fixture. In 1959 Manos Hatzidakis made him a “solist” in his compositions. “Nice Manolis, he understood our kind. And there was no album or song that didn’t put my name on it. Solist George Zabetas,” said Zabetas himself. Every time he went out on the stake, Zabettas gave a performance and people had fun with his soul. He talked to them through his songs, made them become part of the show, so he stood out. Zabetas literally “moved” with his separate pennies the introductions and songs of Theodorakis, Xarchakos, Plassa, Markopoulos, Marquea, Tobacco and many other composers. He also wrote songs with Pythagoras, Kayada, Pretenteris, Papadopoulos, Jeffrey, Bakoyannis and Papagiannopoulou, while working closely with the leading songwriter Charalambos Vasiliadis – Tsanta, poet Dimitris Christodoulou and Alekos Sakellarios. Dimitris Mitropanos had revealed another aspect of his character: “Zabettas is the only man in the song, who helped me without expecting anything. With all my other associates I got something and I gave something.” The 60 ’ s was the golden age of Zabetta. Then he wrote some of his best songs and highlighted large folk voices, such as Vicky Moschou and the memorable Maddalena. The latter has been his permanent partner on the stake for more than a decade. “Hello, Madelinitsa”, he told her and followed the characteristic of ‘ala’… During the 1970s, when morals begin to change, Zabetas turns to satire in the form of shows, with his well-known successes “The Thanasis”, “The 50th”, ‘Yes, sir’ etc. create a sense in the public again. In the song “Yes Lord” , Alekos Kayadas had written the lyrics while in Germany, from where he had sent them to Zabeta. That was why Zabettas noticed this particular file: “Well, let’s say. Who knows what fate and fate threw him in Munich?”. The phrase “Yes, sir” was added by Zabetas, because the song without it seemed a lack. He even decided to say it himself, he seems to have addressed it to himself. In the same decade he writes the “Agonia” performed by Tolis Voskopoulos who gave him great success. Its assets include over 250 songs, most of which became hits, such as: “Father sit tight”, “Roman loved Rome”, “Stalia-Stalia”, “How sweet to love you”, “The 50th”, “The best student” and more. With his songs he highlighted an entire generation of singers: Tolis Voskopoulos, Marinella, Dimitris Mitropanos, Vicky Moschoiu, Stamatis Kokotas, Duchess etc. The song that Alice rejected and was sung by Marinella The “stalia stalia” is one of Zabetta’s favorite songs, which was intended for Alice Vougiouklaki. “Your Aliki I have a song, you finished after that song” he told her. She asks to hear it but her reaction was not the expected or at least the one expected by the bouzouki master. “What is this? Give it to Kazantzidis,” says Alice in Zabetta and he felt his blood frozen. The same day in the studio was Marinella who did not share Alice’s view of the song. As soon as Marinella heard the “Stalia stalia and I will drink your kisses” reluctantly asked the famous bouzouxis to sing it and it became a great success. Zabetas took part in several theatre performances and film films (Red Lanterns, Lola, Dream Street etc.). In the 1980 ’ s the decline of this species begins, with Zabetta facing problems in his partnerships, since the time has changed. However, since 1990 the record companies and the media have been “discovering” his songs again, which know new flourishing and recapture the listeners’ preferences. Unfortunately he is now not only in the west of his career, but also of his life. In early 1992 he was not feeling well and his bones hurt. When the situation deteriorated, he entered the hospital with the diagnosis of bone cancer in advanced condition. He left his last breath of cancer at the hospital “Sotiria” on March 10, 1992, at the age of 67. George Zabetas married Argyro in 1952, whom she had met at 15. With her she had two daughters, Marika in 1953 and Katerina in 1954, as well as a son, Michael in 1956. By tragic coincidence Michael Zabetas died on the same date (10 March) as his father, in 2008, of cancer, at the age of just 52. Musician and performer himself, he had appeared next to his father in concerts, while discography had participated either as an performer or as a musician or as a producer on the albums “The erotics”, “A thousand doves”, “Some pit has the fava”, “Jack O’Hara”, “My Barbas the Panais”, “Supreme Zabetics”, “The donkeys”. He has been buried next to George Zambeta’s late father. Photo source: Eurokinissi