Just in: Theodorakis is dead

Just in: Theodorakis is dead

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

September 02, 2021

The outstanding Greek composer and Communist agitator Mikis Theodorakis died this morning, aged 96.

Best known for his film soundtrack to Zorba the Greek, he wrote hundreds of songs that became national folklore, some becoming international hits and making him very rich.

His ‘Mauthausen Trilogy album’ is one of the great memorials to Nazi victims. Theodorakis himself was jauled by the military junta that seized power in Greece in 1967. Days after his release, he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a liberation concert, in the days when London was cool and in tune with the news.

His music was unfailingly melodic, plangent, unforgettable.



  • Gustavo says:

    Alexis Sorbas always lets my mouth water. This music makes you clear your Gyros platter faster so you have more time for other activities.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    My first exposure to the political effect of Theodorakis occurred during my first visit to Greece, in the fall of 1970, the junta still ruling. A few months before, the ailing composer had been freed and flown out to Paris by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, a colorful journalist, politician and press entrepreneur. (Literally flown out by JJSS, who was a keen pilot.)
    Here’s their shambolic press conference at the arrival in Paris. Watch Melina Mercouri, sitting next to JJSS, starting circa 0:50. Worth the ticket.

    Well, in Greece, Theodorakis was everywhere and nowhere. Officially, nowhere. Unofficially, the first sampling of the real undercurrent, one late night in a tavern in Nafplion, was to prove typical of what I would encounter throughout that trip.

    In the best pub manner, once the official closing hour came into effect, a “lock-in” was enforced: with the house still packed, doors were barricaded, a podium was improvised with beer cases and planks, and a succession of singers tried their hand at a succession of rousing Theodorakis crowd-pleasers.
    I asked the publican about the police, which was supposed to be ferocious. He pointed towards two middle-aged gents in a corner. The older one was there every night, because he enjoyed the music. He would make arrests on minor charges, to keep up appearances. The younger one looked cramped and uneasy. “That one would round up everyone if he could. But he knows that he’d be massacred once the colonels fall, so he stays put. Of course there will be arrests, there always are. There will be beatings, there always are. There will be raids. There’s a quota. Now and again they have to deliver. There’s a price to pay. Sometimes in blood.”

    And *will* the colonels fall, ultimately?
    “With the music and the words having got into everybody’s mind, there’s little you can do, short of shooting everybody. Of course they could do that, they’re that kind of swine; but they wouldn’t have much of a country left to rule, would they?”

    So Theodorakis was their hero?
    “Theodorakis is his own hero. Always was, always will be. A self-serving bastard of Homeric proportions. We don’t need him as a hero. We need him to write the score. That’s what he’s good at, and that’s good enough for us.”

  • Sol L Siegel says:

    Also a raving anti-Semite who fully embraced the old tropes about Jews running the world economy, repeatedly and publicly. He also helped save Jewish lives during the Nazi occupation of Greece. Some things cannot be explained. But they shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

  • Manuel Drezner says:

    Theodorakis also declared himself an antisemite. Later he backtracked but a bad taste was left

  • Yizhar Degani says:

    In 2003 he said that the Jewish people are “the root of evil.”

    • Gustavo says:

      Jews and Christs are the root of evil.

      These religions preach that humans are quite apart from nature and not a part of nature.

      • Tamino says:

        Meanwhile Muslims kill other Muslims with suicide bombs, including women and children. Is that a religion more to your taste and in tune with nature?