June 30th: On this day in 1938, Apostolos Nikolaidis, the first Greek artist to record/re-record the authentic, “prohibited” rebetika songs in the early 1970s with their original lyrics, was born in Drama, Greece. While still a toddler, he and the rest of his family moved to nearby Thessaloniki. When he finished grade school, he went to work with his father in construction. It was on these construction sites that he heard songs by legends like Stelios Kazantzidis and Grigoris Bithikotsis on the radio. Much to his parents’ dismay, he soon bought a guitar, formed a trio, and started to perform around his neighborhood. Nikolaidis eventually moved to Athens and took his musical ambitions straight to Columbia Records. He managed to score an audition where, upon his arrival, he discovered that Kazantzidis himself was in for a recording session. Nikolaidis managed to impress both Kazantzidis and Columbia and thus his professional career began with the signing of a 3-year contract. After the expiration of this contract, Nikolaidis set off for the Americas where he spent several years performing in clubs throughout Canada, Chicago and New York. It was in a tiny Manhattan studio in 1972 where Nikolaidis began recording the traditional rebetika songs with their original lyrics. Some of these songs had never been recorded with their original lyrics and all were outlawed in Greece when a military coup took control of the government in 1967. The album that Nikolaidis ended up recording became a worldwide best-seller and made the artist famous all over the world.
July 1st: On this day in 1995 Pavlos, the eldest son of Constantine, the deposed king of Greece, married billionaire Robert W. Miller’s daughter, Marie-Chantal, at London’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia. Pavlos and Marie-Chantal were first introduced on a blind date arranged by Alexander “Alecko” Papamarkou, a New York based investment banker and the son of a former aide to Pavlos’ grandfather, King Paul of Greece. Papamarkou introduced the couple at the 40th birthday party for Philip Niarchos which was held in New Orleans. According to Marie-Chantal’s 2008 Vanity Fair interview, she said of the encounter, “It was love at first sight. I knew that [Pavlos] was the person I would marry.” Pavlos proposed to Marie-Chantal on a ski lift in Gstaad, Switzerland about two years after they met. Constantine and former queen Anne-Marie officially announced the engagement from their residence in London on January 11, 1995. That same week, Pavlos and Marie-Chantal traveled to Constantinople where they were blessed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Marie-Chantal had decided that she would convert from the Roman Catholic to the Greek Orthodox Church and in May of 1995 she was baptized with Papamarkou acting as her godfather.
July 4th: On this day in 2004, Greece won the UEFA Euro Cup in Portugal – one month before the summer Olympics returned to Athens. Before 2004, Greece’s last visit to a European Championship was in 1980. They had made it to the 1994 World Cup but did not win a single game in the United States – which was not all that surprising since Greece’s national team had never won a game – or even scored a goal – in a major tournament. Thus, in 2001, the Greek Football Association handed responsibility of the under-performing national team to a veteran German coach, Otto Rehhagel. Speaking about Rehhagel, Takis Fyssas said, “The first thing [Rehhagel] taught us was that the national team had to come first…he insisted that everything else came after the national team.”