Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Mikis Theodorakis is a renowned Greek troubadour and one of his country's greatest composers. He wrote many symphonies, cantatas, several ballets and operas, plus popular songs including "Zorba the Greek," famous from Herb Alpert's instrumental hit. Born in 1925 on the Greek island of Chios, Theodorakis began writing songs quite early. He formed his own choir and gave his first performance at the age of 17. An active resistance fighter during World War II, he studied at the conservatories in both Athens and Paris (the latter with Olivier Messiaen). 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. After several years of film scoring, in 1964 he composed the music for the film adaptation of the Nikos Kazantzakis novel Zorba the Greek. When 1967 brought a fascist government into control of the country, Theodorakis went underground and formed a revolutionary group to combat abuses -- including a 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 musical director of the symphony orchestra and chorus of the Hellenic Radio and Television.