‘Zorba the Greek’ Composer Mikis Theodorakis Dies at 96

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Mikis Theodorakis was born on the Greek island of Chios on July 29, 1925 and died on September 2, 2021 due to cardiac arrest. The legendary Greek musical composer is credited with over 1,000 works. He composed the soundtracks for the legendary classic 3 time Academy Award winning Zorba the Greek (Best Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction) (1964), Z (1969), and Serpico (1970). He wrote the “Mauthausen Trilogy,” also known as “The Ballad of Mauthausen,” which has been dubbed “the most beautiful musical piece ever created about the Holocaust” and is considered to be among his best work. 

He grew up in Greek cities like Mytilene, Kefalonia, Patra, Pyrgo, and Tripoli. Mikis father was a a lawyer and civil servant from Galatas, a small village on the island of Crete, while his mother, Aspasia Poulakis, was from an ethnically Greek family in Çeşme, what is Turkey today. Mikis grew up listening to Greek Folk music and was heavilly influenced by Byzantine liturgy. From a young child he would talk and dream about becoming a composer.

His interest in music began when he was just a child, and he trained himself to write his first songs without the use of musical instruments. He received his initial music lessons in Patra and Pyrgo, where he was childhood buddies with George Pavlopoulos, and delivered his very first concert at the age of 17 in Tripoli, Peloponnese.

In 1943, he moved to Athens and joined an ELAS Reserve Unit, where he led a troop in the battle against the British and Right wing Greeks in the Dekemvriana. He was imprisoned, exiled on the island of Icaria, and then deported to the island of Makronisos, where he was tortured and twice buried alive during the Greek Civil War.

He studied at the Athens Conservatoire under Filoktitis Economidis from 1943 to 1950 when he was not forced to hide, exiled, or imprisoned. Mikis completed his education in 1950 and passed his final two tests “with flying colours.”  He moved to Crete, where he established his first orchestra and became the “Head of the Chania Music School.”

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