Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti (17 January 1933 – 3 May 1987), professionally known as Dalida, was a Franco-Italian singer and actress who performed and recorded in more than 10 languages including: Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, French, English, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish. She received 55 gold records and was the first singer to receive a diamond disc. A 30-year career (she debuted in 1956 and recorded her last album in 1986, a few months before her death) and her death led to an iconic image as a tragic diva and renowned singer.
She was born Yolande Gigliotti, the daughter of Italian parents living in Cairo. She attended a religious school and studied stenography, by the time she was 17, however, she had blossomed into a beautiful young woman, and began entering talent and beauty competitions. In 1954, the same year that she won the title of Miss Egypt, she made her first screen appearance in an Egyptian production entitled Sigarah Wa Kas, directed by Niazi Mostafa. She began using the name "Dalila," owing to her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr in the costume epic Samson and Delilah, and this was later in France altered to Dalida.
She left Egypt in 1955 to pursue a screen career in Paris. Dalida was cast in the film Le Masque de Toutankhamen, directed by Marco de Gastyne, but much more important to her career was a short singing stint that she took on in Paris. She accepted an offer to sing in the intermission between acts at a club, La Villa d'Este, where she was spotted by Bruno Coquatrix, a producer at the Olympia Theatre, the largest performing venue in the city and also by radio producer Lucien Morisse.
The two took her under their wing, Coquatrix introducing her to the French public, while Morisse later married her. Record producer Eddie Barclay, a former jazz pianist, signed Dalida to a contract with his own Barclay label, and her second single, "Bambino" became a huge hit in 1956. The following year, she was awarded a gold record for a million sales of the single in Europe.
Her later hits included "Gondolier" (1957), "Come Prima 'Tu Me Donnes'" (1958), "Les Gitans" (1958), "Ciao Ciao Bambina" (1959), "Les Enfants du Piree" (1960), and "La Danse de Zorba" (1965), the latter a vocal version of the dance from the movie Zorba the Greek. From 1960 onward, her brother, billed simply as Orlando, oversaw her recordings as producer, and could take some credit for securing her continued success in the 1960s and beyond.
With the advent of the rock & roll era in the early '60s, Dalida adapted successfully to the new music, her recordings making use of a band with more of a beat, as she took on new material, including French versions of songs by the Drifters, the Kingston Trio and others. By 1964, she'd sold an extraordinary 30 million records worldwide, though all of those sales were in the non-English speaking world, from the Middle East to Germany.
Dalida went through several transitions in image -- from dark hair and makeup and elegant gowns in the mid-'50s into a striking blonde in revealing outfits and shorter skirts in the 1960s and beyond, so much so that it was difficult to believe that she was the same performer. She maintained a screen career as well, appearing in over a dozen movies in France and Italy from 1955 through the end of the 1960s.
A heavy performing schedule, coupled with an unsettled romantic life, took their toll. The singer's life took a sudden dark turn when her then-current lover Luigi Tenco, a singer, killed himself at the 1967 San Remo Festival after failing to qualify for a spot on the program. Dalida, who found the body, made the first of several suicide attempts soon after. Following her recovery, she restarted her career in a slightly different direction, recording more serious and thoughtful songs.
Her ex-husband Lucien Morisse took his own life sometime after her attempt at suicide in the wake of Tenco's death. Dalida's later involvement marriage to a man identified as the Count of St. Germain, who turned out not to be a count only added to the picture of a personal life in turmoil and seemed to make her that much more alluring to her admirers. In the midst of this, she won the Oscar Mondial du Disque (World Oscar of Recording), a French award for her "Gigi L'Amoroso," beating out competitors that included Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night." Dalida's career in the 1980s had slowed somewhat as she entered her fifties, looking at least a decade younger but no longer doing 200 engagements a year as she had in her prime.
In 1986, she returned to her native Egypt to make a film, The Sixth Day, with director Youssef Chahine, in which she gave what the critics felt was a superb acting performance. She continued to make Paris her home, where she remained a huge concert draw during her final decade.
On May 3, 1987, Dalida was found dead of an overdose of barbiturates, an apparent suicide at the age of 54. She left behind a note which read, "La vie m'est insupportable... Pardonnez-moi." ("Life is unbearable for me... Forgive me.") Dalida is buried at the Montmartre Cemetery.
(Mainly edited from a Bruce Eder bio @ AllMusic)