Mikis Theodorakis was born on July 29 in 1925, on the Greek island of Chios. The famous Greek songwriter and composer has written over 1000 songs and is viewed as Greece’s best-known living composer.
Fascinated by music as a child, he taught himself to write his first songs without having any access to musical instruments. When he visited Pyrgos and Patras he took his first music lessons, and in Tripolis, he formed a choir and gave his first concert at 17.
His first symphonic works, Concerto for Piano, First Suite, First Symphony, were internationally acclaimed. In 1957 he won the Gold Medal in the Moscow Music Festival; in 1959, Darius Milhaud proposed him for the American Copley-Music Prize as the Best European Composer of the Year after the performances of his ballet “Antigone” at Covent Garden.
An active resistance fighter during World War II, he studied at the conservatories in both Athens and Paris. Theodorakis wrote several symphonies during the late ’50s but later returned to Greece to apply his musical knowledge to the traditional Greek music he’d grown up with.
He wrote many symphonies, cantatas, several ballets, and operas, plus popular songs including “Zorba the Greek.” When 1967 brought a fascist government into Greece, he went underground and formed a revolutionary group to combat abuses, as there was a national ban on playing or even listening to his music. He was later arrested, exiled, and sent to an internment camp, though the work of a global solidarity movement -led by Leonard Bernstein, Dmitri Shostakovich, Arthur Miller, and Harry Belafonte, helped secure his release in 1970.
Still exiled from his country, Theodorakis served as the greatest ambassador of Greek music during the 1970s, playing thousands of concerts across the world. After the government toppled, he served as a member of the new parliament, also working as general music director of the symphony orchestra and chorus of the Hellenic Radio and Television.
In June 2017 a one-thousand-member choir directed by Panagis Barbatis and 50,000 spectators paid tribute to the Greek legendary composer at the Panathinaic stadium before the largest ever assembled choir in Greece.
Most recently, Mikis made his voice heard as protested against the controversial Prespes Agreement and participated in the huge “Macedonia is Greece” rally in Athens.
Today he turns 94, Xronia Polla, Happy Birthday to a true Greek music legend!