By ED CONDRAN
Special To The Courant
2:27 PM EDT, August 19, 2014
Chris Rock once cracked that if 10 million people bought the Spice Girls debut album, 1996's "Spice," why didn't he know anyone who purchased a copy.
The same could be said of Yanni. The New Age superstar, who will perform Friday at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, but it's unusual to hear anyone discussing the finer points of a Yanni project.
But Yanni, 59, is a fascinating figure. While growing up in Greece, Yanni was an elite athlete, who set a national swimming record at 14. "All of that training helped me as a musician," Yanni said. "I went through intense training for five hours a day. That had an impact later in life."
After trying his luck as a prog-rocker, the keyboardist found his niche as a New Age artist, who crafts gentle, peaceful instrumental cuts.
Who would ever guess Yanni would become so successful? "Not me, Yanni said. "Not in a million years. You just didn't see people like myself having that much success."
Yanni doesn't sing or read music. "That's what makes all of this so hard to believe," Yanni said. "It's impossible but I love impossibility. When I see kids today, I tell them that anything is possible. Look at me.The only thing I'll give myself credit for is the ability to take pain and focus."
Yanni, who defies trends, is a little hard on himself. The laidback Kalamata native has accomplished a great deal during his lucrative career. He was the first recording artist to play India's Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City. But his relationship with actress Linda Evans earned more headlines than any concert he ever played.
"I always found that to be strange," Yanni said. "But it was something I couldn't control."
Yanni clings to his privacy. Even his greatest fans know very little about "the man behind the music' or so states the text inside the book flap of the instrumental artist memoir "In Words," (Miramax Books, which was released in 2003).
Only recently did Yanni reveal that he has a 32-year-old daughter.
Less is more to Yanni. "I don't understand why so many people want to be overexposed," Yanni said. "I would rather step back."
After completing his arduous 1998 tour, Yanni went into a deep depression and contemplated retiring. Instead he opted to take a break before he made 2003's "Ethnicity.'' He followed that up with, "Voices," which includes vocals. But it wasn't Yanni's voice belting out tunes on that 2009 album.
Can Yanni sing? "Absolutely not," Yanni said while laughing. "I have perfect pitch. I can hear every note an orchestra plays but I can't sing a single tune."
Yanni says he's comfortable knowing he can't do everything. "I don't need to do everything," Yanni said. "All I need to do is enjoy life. I haven't always enjoyed it even while doing very well. There is a lot of Greek in me and Greeks like to enjoy life. I remember talking to my grandma, she said, 'Yanni, how are you doing?' and I said, 'I'm playing the Forbidden City in China.' And she said, 'yeah, but how are you doing? Are you loving life?' Even with all of that success, I wasn't loving life. I had to learn to love life. I was having trouble in paradise but I learned to love life."
YANNI appears Friday, Aug. 22, at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, 350 Trolley Line Blvd, Ledyard. Tickets are $65, $75 and $85. Showtime is 8 p.m. Information: 800-200-2882; foxwoods.com
Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant