Manos Hadjidakis

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Manos Hadjidakis (Μάνος Χατζιδάκις) (October 23, 1925June 15, 1994) was a Greek music composer. He was born in Xanthi, Thrace, Greece. In 1961, he received an Oscar or Academy Award in the category of Best Music, for his Song Never on Sunday from the film of the same name. He is widely popular among Greeks and can be credited with the introduction of bouzouki music into mainstream culture.


His very first work was the hauntingly beautiful tune for the ditty Paper Moon (Hartino to Fengaraki), from Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire staged by Karolos Koun's Art Theatre of Athens, a collaboration which continued for 15 years. His first piano piece, "For a Small White Seashell" (Gia Mia Mikri Lefki Ahivada) came out in 1947 and in 1948 he shook the musical establishment by delivering his legendary lecture on rembetika, the urban folk songs that flourished in Greek cities, mainly Piraeus, after the Asia Minor refugee influx in 1922 and until then had heavy underworld and cannabis use connections and were consequently looked down upon. Hadjidakis focused on the economy of expression, the deep traditional roots and the genuineness of emotion displayed in rembetika, and exalted the likes of composers like Markos Vamvakaris and Vassilis Tsitsanis. Putting theory to practice, he adapted classical rembetika on his 1951 piano work Six Folklore Paintings (Exi Laikes Zografies), which was later also presented as a folk ballet.

At this point he started pursuing a double-track career of sorts, writing immensely popular "pop" songs and movie soundtracks, alongside more serious works, such as 1954's The C.N.S. Cycle (O Kyklos tou C.N.S.), a song cycle for piano and voice recalling the German lied in its form, if not in style. In 1955 he wrote the score for Michael Cacoyannis' film Stella, with actress Melina Mercouri, a close friend of his, singing the movie's trademark song "Love that became a double-edged sword" (Agapi pou 'gines dikopo mahairi). Hadjidakis always maintained that he wrote his serious pieces for himself and his less serious ones to make a living: nevertheless his melodic talent was so abundant that one can hardly distinguish a quality gradient between the two.

In 1959, Hadjidakis met Nana Mouskouri, his first "ideal interpreter", a shy but superbly skilled vocalist who shaped the sounds of his music with her uniquely beautiful voice. It was 1960 that brought him international success, as his score for Jules Dassin's film Never on Sunday (Pote tin Kyriaki) won him an Academy Award, with The Lads from Piraeus (Ta Paidia tou Peiraia) becoming a huge worldwide hit.

In 1962, he produced the musical 'Dream Street (Odos Oneiron) and completed his score for Aristophanes' Birds (Ornithes), another Art Theater production which caused an uproar because of Karolos Koun's revolutionary direction. The score was also used later by Maurice Béjart's 20th Century Ballets.

In 1965, his LP "Το Χαμόγελο της Τζιοκόντας" (Gioconda's Smile) was released on Minos-EMI. In 2004, it was re-released, digitally remastered as an audiophile LP and a CD in the EMI Classics collection.

In 1966, he travelled to New York for the premiere of Ilya Darling, a Broadway musical based on "Never on Sunday" and starring Melina Merkouri. He did not return to Greece until 1972, mostly because of opposition to Greece's military dictatorship. While in America he completed several more major compositions, including Rhythmology (Rythmologia) for solo piano, his famous orchestral compilation Gioconda's Smile (produced by none other than Quincy Jones), and the pinnacle of his musical achievement, the song cycle Magnus Eroticus (Megalos Erotikos), in which he used ancient (Sappho, Euripides), medieval (stanzas from folk songs and George Hortatzis' romance Erophile) and modern (Dionysios Solomos, Constantine Cavafy, Odysseus Elytis, Nikos Gatsos, Myrtiotissa, George Sarantaris) Greek poems, as well as an excerpt from the Old Testament book "Wisdom of Solomon". His LP "Reflections" with the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble contained several of his most beautiful songs, either in orchestral form or with English lyrics written by the band - a record that preceded fusion trends by several decades.

Hadjidakis returned to Greece in 1972 and recorded "Magnus Eroticus" with singer Fleury Dantonakis, an opera-trained dark-toned alto who proved the consummate interpreter of his music, and singer Dimitri Psarianos. Following the junta's overthrow, he became active in public life and assumed a number of positions in the Athens State Orchestra (KOA), National Opera (ELS), and the National Radio (ERT). In 1985 he launched his own record company "Seirios" (Sirius). In 1989 he founded and directed the Orchestra of Colours (Orhistra ton Chromaton), a small symphonic orchestra.

He was to assume the role of score composer for his friend Federico Fellini's films, following Nino Rota's death, but the collaboration never materialized because of Hadjidakis' mounting health problems. He died on June 15, 1994, of heart disease and diabetes.

Musical Scores (incomplete)

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