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Nation mourns a great Greek

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As three days of national mourning were declared for the legendary composer Mikis Theodorakis, who died on Thursday at the age of 96, homage was paid from all walks of life to a towering and defining figure of modern Greece.

Theodorakis, whose music served as the soundtrack of a nation, was hailed by President Katerina Sakellaropoulou as a “Panhellenic figure” who at the same time was “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,” she said.

As news of Theodorakis’ passing spread, the Greek Parliament held a minute of silence.

For his part, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis noted 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 yesterday.

“As was written about [poet Kostis] Palamas, ‘we had forgotten that he was mortal.’” However, Mitsotakis added, “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.

“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.

Singer Maria Farantouri, who was one of Theodorakis’ closest musical collaborators and performed some of his most memorable songs, said he spoke with the universal language of music and poetry about people, their struggles, joys and sorrows.

“Mikis is global, but above all he is Greek and is a worthy continuation of our great tradition,” she said. 

Lefteris Papadopoulos, whose lyrics were put to music by Theodorakis in songs that captivated generations of Greeks of all classes, referred to a “great Greek” above all, noting that “such a musical, political, cultural phenomenon will not appear again.”

Giorgos Dalaras, who sang so many of Theodorakis’ songs, said he “united the people” and raised them aloft. “The spirit remains. It was this spirit that made high poetry a song that united the people and lifted them up,” he said.

Zulfu Livaneli, a Turkish poet and songwriter who also collaborated with Theodorakis, described him as the “last great Greek.” “The essence of the music he took from his people, he created it with new compositions. This is what all great composers do. So did Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, with the German spirit. And Theodorakis took the Greek spirit and the Greek musical tradition, created it and transformed it,” he said.