50 Iranian Women you should Know: Googoosh

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Global and Iranian history are both closely intertwined with the lives and destinies of prominent figures. Every one of them has laid a brick on history’s wall, sometimes paying the price with their lives, men and women alike. Women have been especially influential in the past 200 years, writing much of contemporary Iranian history.

In Iran, women have increased public awareness about gender discrimination, raised the profile of and improved women’s rights, fought for literacy among women, and promoted the social status of women by counteracting religious pressures, participating in scientific projects, being involved in politics, influencing music, cinema… And so the list goes on.

This series aims to celebrate these renowned and respected Iranian women. They are women who represent the millions of women that influence their families and societies on a daily basis. Not all of the people profiled in the series are endorsed by IranWire, but their influence and impact cannot be overlooked. The articles are biographical stories that consider the lives of influential women in Iran.

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For Iranians, Googoosh is more than just a singer, actress and fashion icon — she is a phenomenon. Before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, whatever her hairstyle, however she put her makeup on and whatever her clothes were, they would instantly become the latest fashion. Her face was often splashed across posters advertising her next movie, guaranteed to be a hit, and people constantly scrambled to watch her sing at concerts.

Although this heyday was pre-1979, she remains to this day one of Iran’s all time most popular singers. She is also popular outside of Iran, in countries like Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where many people know the lyrics of her songs by heart.

Googoosh, who was born in 1950, was originally named Faegheh Atashin. When she was two years old, her parents got divorced and her father brought her up. He was the one to kick-start her singing career by putting her on stage at the age of three.

Googoosh_on_Javanan_e_EmroozAt the age of seven, Googoosh appeared in her first movie, and at eight, she began singing on national radio. During much of her adolescence, she sang on stage in big Tehran nightclubs. With the help of renowned lyricists and songwriters, she soon became famous. She was invited to perform at the royal court, at parties and at high society weddings. She even sang at the Crown Prince Reza’s birthday party, a performance that was recorded in 1977 and is available online.

But after the Islamic Revolution, women were banned from singing. Consequently, many singers and actors left Iran but Googoosh decided to stay and withdrew herself from the public eye. While singers in exile recorded new music and made it available to Iranians via cassettes or videotapes, the “Queen of Iranian Pop” remained silent. Her old songs remained popular, however, and they could be heard from inside open windows or passing cars. She later said in interviews that the Revolutionary Court repeatedly summoned her for questioning.

Then, in 1997, when reformist Mohammad Khatami was elected president, a number of female singers were permitted to sing at gatherings exclusively for women. But Googoosh was not among them.

Before 1979, Googoosh was married twice, but both ended in divorce. The first was to music promoter and owner of the popular Miami Nightclub in Tehran, Mahmoud Ghorbani, in 1967. They had a son together, Kambiz, who now lives in Los Angeles and also works in the music industry. They separated in 1972.

Her second husband was the hugely popular movie actor Behrouz Vossoughi. They met each other while shooting a film together and were married in 1975, but they divorced just a year later.

Then just before the revolution, she married Homayoon Mestaghi. They separated in 1985. Finally, she married renowned movie director Masoud Kimiai in 1991; they were officially divorced in 2003. Kimiai encouraged Googoosh to leave Iran.

Her first concert after the revolution was not until 2000 in New York. Her Iranian and Persian-speaking fans enthusiastically welcomed news of the event.

“Googoosh kept having to wipe tears from her eyes when she performed on Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum,”3e8f41a7 the New York Times reported. “So did many of her fans…In pre-revolutionary Iran, Googoosh was Iran’s Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Edith Piaf and Madonna rolled into one: not just a magnificent singer but a fashion trailblazer and a symbol of modernity. Her songs were romantic, not political, and while they drew on Western styles, they held onto both the fervor of Persian love poetry and the sliding, quivering, impassioned phrasing of traditional Persian music.”

Googoosh is now 65 but she still tours often, mostly in the Western hemisphere but also in Australia and Dubai. Her latest album, Private Picture, was released in 2015 and became a hit, as expected.

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