Mikis Theodorakis is a Greek songwriter and composer who has written over 1000 songs.
He scored for the films Zorba the Greek (1964), Z (1969), and Serpico (1973). He composed the “Mauthausen Trilogy” also known as “The Ballad of Mauthausen”, which has been described as the “most beautiful musical work ever written about the Holocaust” and possibly his best work. He is viewed as Greece’s best-known composer. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.
Politically, he is associated with the left because of his long-standing ties to the Communist Party of Greece. He was an MP for the KKE from 1981-90. Nevertheless, in 1989 he ran as an independent candidate within the center-right New Democracy party, in order for the country to emerge from the political crisis that had been created due to the numerous scandals of the government of Andreas Papandreou, and helped establish a large coalition between conservatives, socialists, and leftists. In 1990 he was elected to the parliament (as in 1964 and 1981), became a government minister under Constantine Mitsotakis, and fought against drugs and terrorism and for culture, education and better relations between Greece and Turkey.
He continued to speak out in favor of left-liberal causes, Greek–Turkish–Cypriot relations, and against the War in Iraq. He has consistently opposed oppressive regimes and was a key voice against the 1967–74 Greek junta, which imprisoned him.
“If I had not experienced what I experienced, I would not have written this music.
Music for me has never been an end in itself, it is something that I have lived.”
Mikis Theodorakis was born on the Greek island of Chios on 29 July 1925 and spent his childhood years in different provincial Greek cities such as Mytilene, Cephallonia, Patras, Pyrgos, and Tripoli. His father, a lawyer and a civil servant, was from the small village of Kato Galatas, Crete and his mother, Aspasia Poulakis, was from an ethnically Greek family in Çeşme, in what is today Turkey. He was raised with Greek folk music and was influenced by Byzantine liturgy; as a child, he had already talked about becoming a composer.
His fascination with music began in early childhood; he taught himself to write his first songs without access to musical instruments. He went to Athens in 1943, and became a member of a Reserve Unit of ELAS, 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 and twice buried alive.