My first inkling that his music was significant was when my parents warned me – I must have been 6 or 7 yrs old – that merely whistling a Theodorakis tune was an arrestable offence – such was the fear that his music caused in the minds of our fascist rulers during the awful dictatorship (1967-1974) that was my childhood. My response to the ban was to try to learn on the piano as many of his songs as I could. During that same time, I remember how on returning from London to Athens we smuggled back to Greece some of his records inside Deutsche Grammophon classical music album sleeves.
Why was Mikis so important to people like myself? For two reasons. First, because over a couple of decades he helped re-invent Greek popular music by blending it seamlessly with some of the best modern Greek poetry – thus putting high brow poems, as lyrics, in the mouths and hearts of everybody. Secondly, because he transcended Greece’s borders with ecumenical orchestral music that touched people far and wide – e.g. probably the best music ever to have been inspired by the Holocaust (the Mauthausen Trilogy), the wonderful music to which he put Pablo Neruda’s CANTO GENERAL, even splendid American movie soundtracks like the one for Sidney Lumet’s brilliant film Serpico featuring a young Al Pacino.