A wiser, wary Yanni is trying it again BY ROD HARMON Knight Ridder News Service
In 1998, Yanni was one of the most famous artists in the world. He had sold more than 20 million albums and earned 35 gold and platinum awards. His television specials were watched by more than a half-billion people. His last two tours had broken attendance records around the globe.
Then, he abruptly walked away from it all, unsure if he would ever record or perform again.
"The last tour we did in '98 was so long, it pretty much made me cross the line," the Greek composer said recently from his home on Florida's east coast. "I have my limit, and I exceeded it. I went through a very painful period where I decided it was time to take time out for myself and be kind to Yanni."
Yanni addresses his self-imposed retirement in a new autobiography, "Yanni in Words" (Miramax Books), in which he recounts his meteoric rise and the accompanying pressure that nearly killed him. The book coincides with a new studio CD, "Ethnicity," and his first tour in five years.
His story is a fascinating one. Here's the condensed version: A champion swimmer and self-taught pianist, he moved to the United States to become a psychologist (he studied at the University of Minnesota) but decided to pursue music instead after obtaining a degree. Avoiding traditional avenues such as radio in favor of PBS specials, he found a rabid following for his merger of classical and contemporary music, which, much to his chagrin, eventually became tagged as "new age."
By the late '90s, Yanni's music was everywhere ï¿½ in record stores, in video stores, in elevators, on television, at sporting events, in doctors' offices, at holistic healing clinics. It was so grandiose that Yanni performed it at some of the greatest wonders of the world, including the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal and the Forbidden City.
But the nonstop working was taking its toll, a problem compounded by the end of a nine-year relationship with actress Linda Evans. When Yanni finally realized he needed to take a break, he was in the middle of a tour and couldn't stop.
"I had studied psychology, so I knew I was headed for that wall," he said. "But I had 60 or 70 cities to go, and at that point, I'm not going to cancel them. I'm not going to do that to people. So I just kind of bit my tongue and went through it.
"When you get onstage, all the pain goes away, because you feed off the audience. For those two or three hours, you forget your troubles. It's a couple of hours later, when you're flying to the next city or you're alone in a strange hotel room, that it hits you hard."
It was only after he had emerged from his depression and was ready to get back in the game that Yanni decided to share his story with others.
"I had been asked to write a book a long, long time ago, and I said, 'No, I don't think so. Books are something you do when you're 70, 80 years old,' " he said. "But I've been wrong before. There is so much that I have learned from traveling all over the world and coming into contact with so many societies and cultures. Hopefully, the book will be inspiring and of value to some people, who will learn from the lessons I have learned and the battles I have fought."
To punctuate the point that this is a new dawn for Yanni, "Ethnicity" does something no Yanni CD has ever done: It features vocals. Although earlier releases were dotted with a vocal track here and there, this is the first time the voice plays as prominent a role as the instruments.
"To me, the human voice is the most expressive instrument known to man," Yanni said. "This time, I had the freedom to just have fun with it, so I tested Alfreda Gerald on one of my old songs ('Secret Vows'), and she did such a brilliant job, I just had to put it on the album. I think all of these vocal songs came out of experimentation, and I liked their sound, so I put them on the album."
Still, it's more of a departure for Yanni than a new direction.
"I am primarily an instrumental artist, at least for now," he said. "I cannot envision myself doing vocals with lyrics."
With a new book, a new CD and a new tour, Yanni is getting back on the roller coaster. When asked if he's afraid his mental state will return to that of five years ago, he's silent for a moment.
"Yes," he said, softly. "Yes, I am. But fool me once, you know. I've been there before, so I'm watching for it. I'm a quick study."
"I guess pain is a great motivator," he added, laughing.
Thanks YMM for posting the two articles for us. Thank you too for all the other posts you`ve made in the last few months.I appreciated them very much and it did help us non-concert goers feel a part of it all. Take care, Seren
I wonder if sometimes, Yanni can learn from his fans.
He said that when he burned out, that it was a few hours later after the joy of the show, that it really hit him hard - alone in a strange hotel room. As I explained in my "How has Yanni's music entered your life" post, Yanni's music is sort of a seventh sense for me. For me, his music allows me - or should I say taught me - how to travel any place I like with my mind.
Right now he is probably not in a strange hotel room. So now is a good time to get a good look and memorize being at a place he likes. Register how it feels, the lighting, what it smells like, memories, and all other aspects about it that you enjoy. Then, when the strange hotel room arrives, he can relax, focus, and go to the place that he memorized, frequently, during his next tour. It's beyond a "daydream" because you actually feel the emotions and your other senses are involved. Maybe this might be worth a try so he doesn't have to just rely on seeing the wall coming based on painful experience. Yanni heal thyself.