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Born November 2, 1959, on the island of Crete, Notis Sfakianakis actually grew up on another Greek island, Kos, moving there when he was seven. Drawn to music, he became a disc jockey in his early twenties, supporting himself by working all manner of jobs, including electrician, plumber, waiter, and laborer. But spinning records wasn't enough; Sfakianakis wanted to be the person singing them. So in 1985 he formed his first band, covering the English hits of the day. It wasn't a success, and within a year Sfakianakis had moved back to Crete, turning to the Greek music that had surrounded him since birth. His talent quickly began to flower, and soon he was opening for national acts.
In Crete, Sfakianakis learned about arranging, singing, and writing, as well as performing. So by the time he met Costas Bourmas, the general manager of Sony in Greece, he was ready for bigger and brighter things. Bourmas signed Sfakianakis and rushed him into the studio to record his debut, First Time. Both the album and its single, "Proti-Fora," made the Greek Top Ten. But there were greater things in store. They came in 1992, when he followed his mentor, Bourmas, to EMI and released You Are a Gun. Sfakianakis achieved an unprecedented coup when two tracks from the album, the title cut and "Opa Opa," both crashed into the Greek Top Ten at the same time. A year later came Chapter and Verse, with two more smash hits, "Ligo Ligo" and "Ese Me Kes."
That he'd become a major Greek star was confirmed in 1994 with In the South East of the World, which went double platinum, selling over 150,000 copies in Greece alone. The single, "O Aetos," became one of the most popular Greek songs of all time. He outdid himself in March 1996, when 5th Step became the biggest-selling record in Greek history with over 200,000 copies bought. After that, Sfakianakis stepped back a little, releasing Collector of Experiences, a very personal record of his favorite songs, both Greek and foreign, ranging from pieces by Elton John and Peter Green to Eleni Vitali. He turned over his royalties from this disc (which had gone platinum) to fund a cultural center in Ormenio, a town on the northeast Greek border. More charity came from his sell-out Australian tour later that year, the profits helping to renovate an elementary school in Kastellorizo.
In addition to more performances in Greece, Sfakianakis was busy in the studio, preparing what would be his most ambitious record to date. Notes Are Immortal, released in March 1998, was a double CD covering contemporary social issues. On the day it appeared, the album went platinum; by 2001 it was five-times platinum. Surprisingly, he'd never attempted a Greek tour. But he remedied that later in 1998. A year later he took his show on the road around Europe and, for the first time, to North America. The recorded result was Memento, a double live set that ended up seven-times platinum. But Sfakianakis wasn't content to rest on his laurels. He had more music to make. That came in November 1999 with A Herald, a short, five-track album of songs that immediately went five-times platinum. 2000 brought Multicoloured and Intense, a collection of new songs that went double platinum as soon as it appeared. In late 2001, Best of Notis Sfakianakis was released in the U.S.