The ideological divide between the “left-wing” Mikis Theodorakis and the “right-wing” Manos Hadjidakis was as contrived as the artistic rivalry between the two composers and musicians was the product of fiction – basically. Sure, they had their tiffs and differences, but they also had a good deal of mutual respect and recognition for each other.
Born in the same year, 1925, they led parallel but separate lives, they held extensive discussions, they agreed on fundamental issues and disagreed on equally fundamental ones, and were, above all else, “free men.” It is how Mikis Theodorakis described himself once when he was asked how he defined himself ideologically.
They were also great men in a small country, which they helped shape with their courage, their sense of taste, their attitude to life and their way of thinking. And we will never be the same without Mikis and Manos, without this complex familiarity/rivalry represented by the fact that they addressed each other publicly by their first names.
Inseparable in the hearts of most Greeks, Theodorakis’ death 27 years after Hadjidakis’ has left an even bigger void. The “end” has brought a deluge of emotions steeped in the sounds and lyrics of their songs.
In these times of intolerant voices and dangerous extremes, the voice of Manos Hadjidakis from an old show (broadcast on Thursday in Kathimerini Radio’s podcast series) comes as a reminder that charisma and talent are not all it takes to be truly great. It takes rising above human pettiness every single day; it takes bravery and generosity. It means being a star who can share the limelight, being a role model, if not in that moment, then certainly over time.
Hadjidakis admits in that old interview that many of the people who used to stop him on the street for an autograph had confused him with pop-folk singer Tonis Maroudas. “That doesn’t happen with Mikis Theodorakis. People know him. But who really knows the importance of his music? That he didn’t just compose ‘Zorba’ or ‘Pente, Pente, Deka,’ which so many believe to be the extent of his contribution?… Theodorakis is a musician through and through, and he simultaneously works on less prominent things, with determination and understanding for his sources and goals – with sensitivity and unrivalled technical ability – and these are the things that will secure him a place in posterity, for sure and for ever.”