Vicky Leandros turns 70
She became immortal thanks to a song
Pop singer Vicky Leandros turns 70 on August 23. It’s hard to imagine German music history without it.
Vicky Leandros is one of the most famous German pop singers. Based on the number of records she has sold alone, she is one of the most successful artists in this category with 55 million, although she is not (or no longer) in the current charts. She’s been in the business for quite a long time. In 1965 their first single “Messer, Gabel, Schere, Licht” was released, which went straight into the top 20 (six million records sold). On August 23rd, Vicky Leandros will be 70 years old.
Father Leo as a mentor and role model
Actually, her name was Vassiliki Papathanasiou, and there are doubts that she would have made a hit career under this name in Germany. But her father Leandros Papathanasiou (95) called himself Leo Leandros, and that was half the battle. There is a nice story about this Leo Leandros, son of a Greek university professor: After studying law, he wanted to become State Secretary in the Greek Ministry of the Interior, but he gave up his career in politics because he much preferred singing and wanted to be a hit star. He succeeded – first in Greece, then in Germany.
His daughter Vassiliki was born on the island of Corfu, but grew up with her father Leo Leandros in Hamburg after her parents divorced. Dad was in the business at the time. After his pop career, he became a composer and music producer, working with the likes of Demis Roussos (1946-2015), Julio Iglesias (78), Nana Mouskouri (87) and Freddy Quinn (90). Above all, he devoted himself to his talented daughter Vassiliki, who was just called “Vicky” by everyone and now took the stage name Leandros.
Triumph at the ESC at just 20 years old
Carefully controlled by her father, her career took off like a rocket. At 13, the million hit “Messer, Gabel, Schere, Licht”, at 15 her first participation (for Luxembourg) in the Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson, as the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) used to be called, fourth place. In 1972 she won the ESC, also for Luxembourg, with “Après toi (Then you came)”, which her father had composed. In the years that followed, she became Big Star Vicky, she no longer needed the addition of Leandros, her father was successfully operating in the background. She not only sang in German and her native language Greek, but also in French, English, Spanish, Dutch and even Japanese.
She gave concerts in South Africa, Asia, Latin America and Canada, and sang in sold-out halls such as the Olympia in Paris, the Yubin Chokin Hall in Tokyo and the Royal Albert Hall in London. She lived briefly in Paris, recorded the album “Across The Water” in Nashville for the US market – and left the US because she felt “trapped,” “too far away from my roots, my friends and mine Family.”
Private strokes of fate
In her private life she is less fortunate. The first, four-year marriage with the building contractor Ivan Zissiadis failed in 1986. During the separation period, her husband Zissiadis went to Greece with their son Leandraki. After lengthy negotiations, she gets her son back and sole custody. In 1986 she married Baron Enno von Ruffin (68), with whom she had two daughters: Milana (37) and Sandra von Ruffin (35). The family lived on Gut Basthorst in Schleswig-Holstein. In 2005 she announced the separation from her second husband. Since 2012 she has been living in Hamburg again.
Immortal thanks to “Theo, we’re going to Lodz”
Vicky Leandros’ biggest hit, incidentally her only number one in the German charts, does not correspond to the usual Schlager cliché: “Theo, wir fahr’n nach Lodz” came out in 1974, a strangely catchy piece that has delighted audiences to this day sings along
The song is said to be based on a Landsknecht song from the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, which is about the Polish city of Łódź (southwest of Warsaw). In 1915, during the First World War, the soldiers’ song “Rosa, we’re going to Lodz” was performed in Austria. “Rosa” meant the heaviest cannon of the Austro-Hungarian army. This song was also played in the TV series “The Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk” in 1972. That’s when Vicky’s father heard the song for the first time and couldn’t let go of him. The Hamburg author Klaus Munro (1927-2013) wrote a new text for the melody. However, the record company Philips/Phonogram was not at all enthusiastic: the text did not correspond to the spirit of the times and was also detrimental to Vicky’s image with her romantic songs and southern European touch.
But Leo Leandros remained firm. “Theo, we’re going to Lodz” appeared as he had conceived it. The German audience was enthusiastic, the “Lodz” song became a hit. There is an American version “Henry, Let’s Go to Town”, an English “Danny, Teach Me to Dance”, also a French and Canadian “Théo, on va au bai”. The city of Łódź even used the song to produce a promotional film for the city’s tourism office. A song for the whole world and for eternity…