Such was his emotional attachment to the people of Greece and its migrants, Kazantzidis was given a national funeral through the streets of Athens which was broadcast live on Greek Television.
His death saw Greece and its millions of migrants scattered all over the world, with whom Kazantzidis had formed a bond through his songs, for in Stelios they had a means of expression. His music captured their feelings in the difficult post-war period.
He was considered by many as the most prolific and stirring singer of Greek popular music, or Laïkó, and he worked with many of Greece's most renowned composers and writers. One of the first composers he ever worked with described his voice as "made for expressing anguish".
He was orphaned at the age of 13 when his father, a member of the Greek Resistance, was tortured to death by the rightists. This forced Kazantzidis into employment, working as a baggage-carrier at Omonia Square and then for an interstate bus company, as a seller of roasted chestnuts at open markets, and as a labourer at the Nea Ionia textile mills.
His life changed when the owner of a factory, which was located in the Perissos working district, gave him a guitar. He spent long hours playing music.
He made his first public appearance at a Kifissia night club in the early 1950s and soon after, in July 1952, made his first studio recording at Columbia studios with a song entitled "I'm going for a swim" (Για μπάνιο πάω), written by Apostolos Kaldaras. It did not do well but he tried again, recording Gianni Papaioannou's "The suitcases" (Οι βαλίτσες) soon after. The song became the first of many hits and with his newfound popularity he began to make appearances in some of the biggest clubs of the time, like "Theios", "Mpertzeletos" and "Rosignol".
With his career in full swing, Kazantzidis began to collaborate with some of the biggest names in the Greek music scene of the time, like the renowned composers Vassilis Tsitsanis, Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, Stavros Xarhakos and Manolis Hiotis, while he presented singer Marinella and they became the most legendary duet of that time.