We had forgotten that he was mortal: Mikis Theodorakis dies

Mikis Theodoraki

(Kathimerini) – Mikis Theodorakis, a towering figure in Greek music who was instrumental in raising global awareness of Greece’s plight during the 1967-74 military dictatorship, died on September 2 at the age of 96.

President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said Theodorakis was a “pan-Hellenic figure” and at the same time “a universal artist, an invaluable asset of our musical culture.”

“He was given a rich and fruitful life that he lived with passion, a life dedicated to music, the arts, our country and its people, dedicated to the ideas of freedom, justice, equality, and social solidarity.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared a three-day national mourning for the late composer, noting that he had received “valuable” advice from Theodorakis, especially concerning “the unity of our people and overcoming dividing lines.”

“His voice was silenced and with him the whole of Hellenism was silenced,” he said at the start of a cabinet meeting on Thursday. “As it was written about [poet Kostis] Palamas, ‘we had forgotten that he was mortal.’” However, “he leaves us a legacy of his songs, his political action, but also his national contribution at critical times.”

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni noted his volume of work and contribution to music. “Today we lost a part of Greece’s soul. Mikis Theodorakis, Mikis the teacher, the intellectual, the radical, our Mikis has gone.”

Main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras described the late composer as “unsurpassed,” a “fighter, a communist, an activist, through his music, life, battles and contradictions,” who “gave light to our souls.”

“He marked with his work the life and course of those who chose the road of democracy and social justice. We say goodbye to him with the certainty that what he leaves behind is indelible,” he added.

Similar feelings were conveyed by Fofi Gennimata, leader of centre-left Movement for Change (KINAL) who noted that “in difficult times for democracy, his songs were a beacon of hope that never went out for millions of Greeks.”

“It is with deep emotion and an incessant applause that we say goodbye to Mikis Theodorakis, activist-creator, leader and pioneer of a new, fighting art in music,” the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party said in a statement on Thursday.

As news of Theodorakis’ passing spread, the Greek Parliament held a minute of silence.

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Renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis dies

Mikis Theodorakis (29 July 1925 – 2 September 2021)

Greek veteran composer and political activist Mikis Theodorakis, who was instrumental in raising global awareness of Greece’s plight during the 1967-74 military dictatorship, has died at the age of 96.

Born on the island of Chios, on 29 July 1925, he studied music in Athens and later Paris.

His work ranges from rousing songs based on major Greek poetic works, many of which remain left-wing anthems for decades, to symphonies and film scores.

He composed perhaps the most recognizable Greek music internationally, the syrtaki from the film “Zorba the Greek” (1964), while his songs were performed by famous artists, such as The Beatles, Shirley Bassey and Edith Piaf. He composed the scores in films such as “Z” (1969), which won the BAFTA Prize for original music, “Phaedra” (1962), which included songs with lyrics by Nikos Gatsos, and “Serpiko” (1973), for which he was nominated for a Grammy in 1975 (he claimed the same award for his music “Zorba the Greek” in 1966).

Theodorakis also composed the “Mauthausen Trilogy” — also known as “The Ballad of Mauthausen”, and the “Mauthausen Cantata” — a cycle of four arias with lyrics based on poems written by Greek poet Iakovos Kambanellis, a Mauthausen concentration camp survivor.

A very outspoken political activist, he joined a reserve unit of ELAS, the military arm of the left-wing National Liberation Front (EAM) during the period of the Greek resistance against the Nazi occupation, and led a troop in the fight against the British and the Greek right in the “Dekemvriana.” During the Greek Civil War he was arrested, sent into exile on the island of Icaria and then deported to the island of Makronisos, where he was tortured. 

Theodorakis had long-standing ties to the Communist Party of Greece of which he was an MP from 1981 to 1990. However, in 1989 he ran as an independent candidate with the right-wing New Democracy and became a minister in 1990 under Constantine Mitsotakis (father of the current Greek prime minister), only to resign in March 1992.

In later years, he was repeatedly hospitalized due to health problems and in 2019 underwent heart surgery to place a pacemaker.

Visibly distraught, his daughter, Margarita Theodoraki, said on Thursday his health had deteriorated repidly in recent days. “He was a very good man, a great man. Keep loving him,” she told journalists waiting outside the composer’s home.

The leader of the Greek Communist party (KKE), Dimitris Koutsoumbas, revealed on Thursday a personal letter sent to him by Theodorakis on October 5, 2020, in which he asked him to fulfil his last wishes, which include being burried in the small village of Galatas on Crete, where his father was born.

“I see that I spent my most critical, strong and mature years under the banner of the KKE. That is why I want to leave this world as a communist,” the letter says.

The Ministry of Culture announced on Thursday the postponement of all events sponsored by the ministry, due to the three-day national mourning declared for the passing of Theodorakis.


20 Years of Resistance to US Wars / 20 ans de résistance aux guerres étatsuniennes

Inspiring internationalist 32-minute video, beautiful haunting musical theme, hundreds of images, created by Jeunes pour le Renouveau Démocratique (Youth for Democratic Renewal in Quebec, Canada).

In tribute to the memory of Mikis Theodorakis (29 July 1925 – 2 September 2021)

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