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Helmut Zacharias

b. 27 January 1920, Berlin, Germany, d. 28 February 2002. This violinist, arranger, composer and band leader was raised in Berlin. At the age of three he was given a toy violin by his father, himself a professional violinist. The gift was soon replaced by the real thing, and at the age of six he was on the cabaret stage of the Faun on Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse. At the age of 11 he played Mozart’s Violin Concerto In G Major on radio, and was soon performing in concert throughout Germany. When Zacharias was 17, he bought himself a Hammig instrument with the proceeds of a Fritz Kreisler Award. In 1941 he recorded a swing session at the Odeon Studio on Schlesische Strasse, but was drafted into the German army shortly afterwards.

Following the war Zacharias enjoyed spells with various ensembles before forming his own orchestra, which became popular throughout Europe. One of his biggest hits, ‘When The White Lilacs Bloom Again’ (a version of the German song ‘Wenn Der Weisse Flieder Wieder Bluht’), was also released in the USA in 1956, and almost made the Top 10. In the late 50s Zacharias settled in Ascona, the Italian part of Switzerland, and, soon afterwards, in the early 60s, began to make an impact in the UK with several successful albums. Some of them were credited ‘with Orchestra’, and others ‘with Magic Violins’. One of the latter was ‘Love Is Like A Violin’, which was enormously successful for Zacharias on the Continent, but was kept out of the UK chart by a version from singing comedian Ken Dodd in 1960. Four years later, Zacharias made the UK Top 10, unopposed, with ‘Tokyo Melody’, which he wrote with Heinz Hellmer and Lionel Bart. It was the theme tune for the 1964 Olympic Games, the first occasion they had been held in Asia.

Zacharias continued to prosper with his mixture of contemporary pops and light classics, played in a relaxed, swinging style, with the ever-present fiddle. His Greatest Hits contained numbers such as ‘Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White’, ‘Under The Linden Tree’, and one of his own most attractive compositions, ‘Blue Blues’. Zacharias retired from playing in the 90s, and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in the years preceding his death.
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