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Cyprus musician goes back to yesterday

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Photo by Taspho

A local musician has recently released a journey through media and music. SARA DOUEDARI meets him

 Who exactly is John Vickers? That depends on who you ask in Cyprus. To some, he’s the voice that defined an era of radio, to others, a key figure in the island’s journalistic landscape, and to yet others, a talented musician whose career took an unconventional path. John Vickers’ story is a fascinating journey through music, media, and cultural integration.

Born in Retford, England, he pursued French and Italian at the University of Leicester, where an unexpected encounter with Charles Trenet in Nice nearly shifted his path towards music full-time. “Meeting Trenet was a major experience. I was a 20-year- old student and he was a musical legend, almost 60 at the time, and he liked my songs enough to persuade CBS to offer me a recording contract and to write French lyrics for a couple of them. That gave me enormous confidence to keep writing and, at the same time, I was given a rare glimpse of what it meant to be truly involved in the music business – giving concerts, making TV appearances, etc. In the end I wasn’t ready to drop out of university to pursue that”, he explains.

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photo by Taspho

Despite an offer from CBS France, Vickers chose education over an early music career. Following his graduation, he relocated to Cyprus in 1972, motivated by love to marry his Cypriot girlfriend. Soon, Vickers became well-known through his first radio show on CyBC. His programme, featuring a mix of music, chats and dedications, quickly became popular with listeners all over the Eastern Mediterranean. “I saw an announcement in the Cyprus Mail about a ‘pop music festival’ to be held in the Lyssi village stadium and I contacted the organisers to see if I could take part. They said yes and that was where I met the English MC who worked at the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) but was about to leave the island. ‘You’re English and you know about pop music – would you be interested?’ was the question and my affirmative answer was the start of a 25-year career in broadcasting”. His transition from radio to pioneering work at Radio Proto further solidified his media presence.

After 22 years, he stopped his radio work in 1994 to concentrate on journalism and translation.

Vickers’ journalistic work included substantial contributions to The Cyprus Weekly and later roles as editor for several publications. “In terms of my career in journalism, I’m most proud of the fact that 13 years ago I was asked to be Chief Editor of a new monthly business and finance magazine (GOLD) and, over 150 issues later, it’s still going strong”, he says.

In response to the question of how learning Greek and being multilingual influenced his career in Cyprus, Vickers says: “Although my first radio shows and press articles were in English, I wanted to become fluent in Greek, if only to prove to my Greek Cypriot in-laws that I wasn’t planning to go back to England with their daughter!

featrue2 cd cover“I soon saw that being able to speak, and later write, the language not only opened up a huge new world of culture and knowledge to me but it made people view me in a more positive way since I had ‘made the effort’ to assimilate. And it led to tangible results: I played the title role in a Greek-language TV version of Brendan Behan’s The Hostage in 1975, I eventually presented radio and TV programmes in Greek and, perhaps more importantly, I began working as a translator.”

Vickers has translated over 30 diverse books and counts himself as one of the editors of a bestselling Greek-English dictionary, showcasing the depth of his linguistic contribution and the significant recognition of his efforts in bridging cultures through language.

Despite his pivot to journalism, Vickers never abandoned music. He recorded albums and singles, leaving a lasting legacy on Cyprus’ music scene, including a notable participation in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1990. “I am proud to have represented Cyprus in the Eurovision Song Contest as composer of our entry. Even though it only came 14th, I still consider it a great honour. I was finally viewed as a Cypriot!”

Vickers recently released Back To Yesterday, a new CD featuring 20 songs written between 1969 and 1972, before his move to Cyprus. These tracks, which remained unrecorded for decades, represent what could have been included in his early albums had his career path taken a different turn. Produced in collaboration with Michalis Roussos and a talented ensemble of musicians, the album offers a nostalgic journey through 70s rock/pop/singer-songwriter genres.

John Vickers’ journey is far from ordinary. Today, he stands as a testament to the impact one individual can have on a community; he is deeply connected to the Cypriot audience through shared moments, music, and stories. “At the time, I was ‘just doing my job’ and could never have imagined that I would touch so many lives in a positive way,” he reflects. Through his journey, Vickers has not only left a lasting mark on Cyprus but also highlighted the power of embracing life’s chances and the value of cultural integration.

Back To Yesterday is available as a special limited-edition deluxe CD and digitally

 

 

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