One of the most successful female artists in history comes to The Sage Gateshead for the first time tonight. James Watson talks to singer Nana Mouskouri.
AFTER recording more than 1,500 songs in 15 languages, Nana Mouskouri is finally saying goodbye to the stage.
The Greek singer, who released her first song in 1957 and went on to sell more than 300 million records, is currently on her Farewell Tour, which comes to the North-East tonight.
“Nothing is forever,” she says. “I’ve been performing for 50 years and I’ve decided it’s time to say thank you to my audience.
“I’ve spent most of my life going from one stage to another and I’ve absolutely loved it, but you don’t always get the chance to stop and appreciate it.
“This tour is my chance to see all my fans one last time and say thank you for all the memories and emotions we’ve shared.
“I’m trying to visit as many countries as possible. It won’t be completely everywhere, but we’ve already been to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South America, and elsewhere.
“I still need to do China and Japan, and obviously I’m doing the UK and Ireland at the moment.
“I’m delighted to be at The Sage Gateshead this weekend as I’ve never been there before and it’s nice to play new venues.”
Nana’s farewell tour will culminate in her native Greece next year. She says it was always the obvious choice for her final show. “I come from Greece originally, so it felt natural to return to where I came from. The tour should be finished next summer and it will be good to be home again as it feels like I’ve been constantly travelling for the last 50 years – although I strongly believe life is about the journey, not the destination.”
Nana, who is now in her 70s, says she is looking forward to singing some of her favourite songs for audiences in the UK, but admits it is difficult to choose them.
“Different songs are important to the audience for different reasons and it is the same for me,” she says. “I try to tell my story through the songs and pass on their meaning to the audience.
“I think songs can be magical.”
She says: “I’ve been singing Over The Rainbow since I was a little girl, almost unconsciously, and the meaning of The Wizard of Oz has always held a special importance to me as I feel you need heart, courage, and a brain to go through life.
“Songs have been lessons for me and working with great songwriters like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, among others, has been very educating to me.
“People like Quincy Jones and Harry Belafonte were also very inspiring, while recording songs by the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones was wonderful.
“I’ve always tried to make the most of my time with other artists and learn as much as possible.
“One of things I want to do now is pass on what I have learned to young people. I think it’s very important to have the opportunity to speak to young people and children and a lot of my humanitarian work is in that area.”
Nana was appointed a Unicef goodwill ambassador in 1993 and says that growing up during the Nazi occupation of Greece in the Second World War gave her the determination to use her fame to do good.
“Living under the Nazi occupation leaves a mark you can never lose completely. I was happy to escape with my family, but it will never be forgotten and I cannot be indifferent when I see suffering elsewhere.
“This is why I work with the UN. There is still so much poverty and oppression in the world and I think music and culture have very important roles to play.”
The singer currently lives in Switzerland, but has several homes elsewhere and says one of the benefits of retiring will be having a more settled existence. She says: “For years I have lived everywhere. Now I want to decide on one home. My children, who are both grown up now, will be happy about that. They both think its time for me to step aside while I’m still fit and well.”
Nana, who will be releasing an autobiography entitled The Night Owl’s Daughter next year, has often been referred to as the most successful female solo artist of all time, but insists she just wants to be remembered as someone loved in many countries.
“I cannot believe I’m the most successful, but I’m very proud to have sung in many countries, in many different languages and to have been loved around the world.”
Nana Mouskouri: The Farewell Tour is at The Sage Gateshead tonight at 7.30pm. Tel: (0191) 443-4661.