Mikis Theodorakis, a towering figure in Greek music who was instrumental in raising global awareness of Greece’s plight during the 1967-74 military dictatorship, died on Thursday at the age of 96.
President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said Theodorakis was a “pan-Hellenic figure” and at the same time “a universal artist, 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.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared a three-day national mourning for the late composer, noting that he had received “valuable” advice from Theodorakis, especially concerning “the unity of our people and overcoming dividing lines.”
“His voice was silenced and with him the whole of Hellenism was silenced,” he said at the start of a cabinet meeting on Thursday. “As it was written about [poet Kostis] Palamas, ‘we had forgotten that he was mortal.’” However, “he leaves us a legacy of his songs, his political action, but also his national contribution at critical times.”
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni noted his volume of work and contribution to music. “Today we lost a part of Greece’s soul. Mikis Theodorakis, Mikis the teacher, the intellectual, the radical, our Mikis has gone.”
Main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras described the late composer as “unsurpassed,” a “fighter, a communist, an activist, through his music, life, battles and contradictions,” who “gave light to our souls.”
“He marked with his work the life and course of those who chose the road of democracy and social justice. We say goodbye to him with the certainty that what he leaves behind is indelible,” he added.
Similar feelings were conveyed by Fofi Gennimata, leader of centre-left Movement for Change (KINAL) who noted that “in difficult times for democracy, his songs were a beacon of hope that never went out for millions of Greeks.”
“It is with deep emotion and an incessant applause that we say goodbye to Mikis Theodorakis, activist-creator, leader and pioneer of a new, fighting art in music,” the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party said in a statement on Thursday.
As news of Theodorakis’ passing spread, the Greek Parliament held a minute of silence.