Yanni a private star with invisible fans; They quietly emerge from everywhere
By ED CONDRAN, SPECIAL TO THE RECORD, Wire Services
Chris Rock once asked why, if 10 million people bought the Spice Girls' 1996 debut album, "Spice," didn't he know anyone who purchased a copy?
The same line could be applied to Yanni. The New Age superstar has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, but it's rare to hear anyone discussing the finer points of a Yanni disc.
The native of Greece, who has resided in America for 31 of his 50 years, has accomplished a great deal during his career. He earned a psychology degree in 1976 from the University of Minnesota and didn't become a star until the release of "Live at the Acropolis" in 1994. He was the first recording artist to play India's Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City. However, Yanni's relationship with actress Linda Evans earned him more headlines than any concert he ever played.
Yanni, who ended his nine-year relationship with the former "Dynasty" star in January 1998, clings to his privacy. Even Yanni's greatest fans know very little about "the man behind the music," or so states the text inside the book cover of his "In Words," (Miramax Books).
After completing his 1998 tour, Yanni went into a deep depression and contemplated retiring from the music business. The keyboardist with the most famous flowing mane this side of Fabio said he worked out his troubles by writing "In Words." "It was a very cathartic experience," Yanni said on the phone from Los Angeles.
After exorcising his demons, Yanni recorded his latest album, "Ethnicity," which he will showcase during his three nights at Radio City Music Hall.
Q. Who are Yanni fans?
There are many different fans. At shows there are 6-year-old kids and 70-year-old grandmothers. Every color and every culture is represented.
They're faithful and worldwide.
Q. What is the sonic attraction that draws such a disparate group?
It's hard to put a finger on it. When you see this show you'll hear sounds from all over the world. People like that. I play everybody's music. It's varied and it connects to people emotionally.
Q. You may not get much notice for this, but if you strip down some of your music there is a pop element there.
That's good observation. There is a pop sensibility and perhaps that appeals to some people. But the pop element is subliminal, it's not something I do consciously. I grew up listening to pop so it comes out.
Q. To paraphrase the question on the back of your book, what are the chances that a poor kid from the seaside town of Kalamata, who doesn't sing, dance, study, write or read music, becomes one of the world's most popular musicians?
It's impossible. But I love impossibility. I love when I talk to kids nowadays and tell them if I'm able to do what I did, you can do anything.
Q. Where do you run into kids?
After the shows sometimes kids will be there. I might see them at a university. I speak to children whenever I get a chance.
Q. You took an extensive break after your '98 tour.
It was for my mental health. It was for my own good. I really burned out on the '98 tour. The stress got to such a high level. The whole thing just kicked my butt.
Q. What did you do during your hiatus?
The first thing I did was run away (laughs). I went back to Greece, to the place where I was born. I walked away from my career. I did no interviews, nothing. I didn't play piano for one year. I walked the mountains with my dad. I dealt with the pain. I just sat there and said I'm not going to leave unless I feel happy again.
Q. Was there a strong possibility that your career was over?
Yes. It was a very strong possibility. I had very serious talks with my father in the mountains. He said, "If you don't write another song as long as you live, you'll be fine." Greeks like to enjoy life. My grandma, who is gone now, I would talk to her and she would say, "Yanni, how are you doing?" I'm in China playing the Forbidden City and she would say, "Yeah yeah, but how are you doing? Are you loving life?" Sometimes I would say, "No, I'm not. My career is doing great, but I am not happy."
Q. The average person will read this and think, "Yanni has it all. What's he whining about?"
Of course. That's the irony of it. The irony is called trouble in paradise. You get to paradise and you're not happy. That's more scary than if you're not in paradise and not happy, because you hope someday it will get better. What's better than paradise? How can you not be happy?
Q. There are a number of entries from Linda Evans in the book. Are you two still close?
Absolutely. She helped me put this tour together. We're very close. I learned a lot from her. She was a wonderful lover and a teacher. She's an incredible human being.
Q. Is there a chance for a romantic reunion?
You never can say never, but I would say probably not. But it's all right. We're both happy.