Greek music 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.

Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a three-day national mourning for the death of the music legend.

Born on the island of Chios, on 29th July 1925, Mikis Theodorakis studied music in Athens and Paris.

His work ranges from rousing songs based on major Greek poetic works to symphonies and film scores.

He was famous for his anthemic “Xrysoprasino Fyllo” a spirited, patriotic song which celebrated Cyprus. The original version was sung by Grigoris Bithikotsis in 1965 and numerous other artists have subsequently covered the song.

Perhaps the most recognisable Greek piece of music in the world was also composed by Mikis Theodorakis – the syrtaki from the film “Zorba the Greek” in 1964 for which he won a Grammy for in 1966.

His songs have also been performed by the world’s greatest-ever singers, such as The Beatles, Shirley Bassey and Edith Piaf.

He also composed the scores in the films “Z” (1969), which won a BAFTA for original music, “Phaedra” (1962), which included songs with lyrics by Nikos Gatsos, and “Serpico” (1973), for which he was nominated for another Grammy in 1975.

Theodorakis also composed the “Mauthausen Trilogy” — 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.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni wrote on Twitter, “Today we lost a part of the soul of Greece”, calling him “the one who made all Greeks sing poetry”.

President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou hailed him as a “pan-Hellenic personality” who was also a universal artist and 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.”

LGR’s Chairman, John Kyriakides said, “He wrote so much music which has been heard globally by generations – and will live on for generations to come.”

Mikis’ request is to be buried in his ancestral homeland of Galatas, west of the Cretan city of Chania.

Everyone at LGR was saddened to hear of his passing and our thoughts and prayers to out to his family and friends. We will continue to pay tribute to his music on-air in the coming days and weeks.

Mikis Theodorakis 1925 – 2021

Article written by London Greek Radio