An authentic interpreter and man of few words
By Iota Sykka
An authentic interpreter of the popular Greek folk music style known as “laiko,” Dimitris Mitropanos was an endearing and honest man, according to local music legend Giorgos Zampetas. Known as Mitsos to his family and friends, Mitropanos was recognized as an artist who served and honored Greek music.
The singer died on Tuesday at the age of 64 in Athens after suffering pulmonary edema caused by a heart attack.
Reserved and modest, he was never tempted by the kind of excess which defined his trade. He was a man of few, honest words, as he liked to say.
Mitropanos did not have an easy childhood. He was serious, equipped with a singular sense of humor and was also free of the complexes that certain of his fellow artists carry with them.
He was known for his ability to combine different music genres and open to all sorts of artistic collaborations, but above all he was passionate about laiko music.
He was also a family man, who early on took care of his mother and sister before marrying Venia and starting his own family in the 1990s. He leaves two daughters, Anastasia and Myrsini.
His stage presence had an old-style flair: He had the finesse and severity of Grigoris Bithikotsis, although he was a known fan of Stelios Kazantzidis.
It was Bithikotsis who had urged the young Mitropanos to become a singer during an encounter at the popular Plakiotiko Saloni venue in Athens. Bithikotsis had subsequently escorted him to Columbia Records, where he introduced him to the legendary Takis Lambropoulos, who, in turn, presented him to the master, Zampetas.
As Zampetas and Mitropanos developed a father-and-son relationship the young singer’s career took off. He had already left behind his native Aghia Moni, a village dubbed “Little Moscow” for its left-leaning convictions on the outskirts of Trikala, Thessaly, where he was born in 1948.
Mitropanos had lived his early years as an orphan, until a letter from Romania contradicted the belief that his father had been killed during the Greek Civil War. “I met him when I was 28,” Mitropanos said in an interview with Kathimerini in 2000.
After moving to Athens, he had lived with an uncle on Acharnon Street. He worked as a singer alongside Zampetas, attended school in the mornings and became involved in left-wing political activities in his spare time. His political involvement had been unavoidable and until the very end he was a dedicated supporter of those in need. He voiced his opinions, got angry and was known for criticizing the left. “No matter what they end up doing in life, I wish for them to stand up for what they believe in, for their personal freedom,” he had said on the subject of his daughters in an interview last October. In the same interview he had spoken ardently regarding the issue of an equitable state.
“If a private citizen is handed a 10-year-old prison sentence for stealing money from the state, then a public figure who is in power should serve double the time for the same offense. And, most importantly, politicians should provide information regarding their properties when they enter and exit the political arena,” he said.
He was also one of the first artists to point out the local music scene’s decline.
“As soon as music left its creators and passed onto the singers, everything started going wrong. The latter thought they would conduct their own revolution but they didn’t have the necessary weapons. The voice alone is not enough,” he said.
Meanwhile, he worked with Greece’s leading composers and lyricists. Over the years, he collaborated with Mikis Theodorakis, Giorgos Zampetas, Dimos Moutsis, Apostolos Kaldaras, Christos Nikolopoulos, Yiannis Spanos, Takis Mousafiris, Giorgos Katsaros, Marios Tokas, Thanos Mikroutsikos, Dimitris Papadimitriou and Dimitris Korakakis, among others, while his last album was a collaboration with Stamatis Kraounakis. He also participated in album recordings by local rockers Lakis Papadopoulos and Nikos Portokaloglou.
“Are you afraid of death?” I had asked timidly during our last meeting. “What’s there to be afraid of? We’re all going to die anyway,” had been his response. He had spent most of our time together talking about the problems plaguing the Greek health system, helpless pensioners and the so-called “Indignants” on Syntagma Square, as opposed to his own health issues.
“He was a strong and proud man,” said Mikis Theodorakis on Tuesday, while Kraounakis, speaking on public radio, used the following words to describe the loss: “The door of ‘laiko’ music closed with a loud bang.”