Obituary: Manos Hadjidakis

Manos Hadjidakis, composer: born Xanthi, Greece October 1925; died Athens 15 June 1994.

Manos Hadjidakis was prominent amongst a small group of talented Greek musicians and composers (others including Mikis Theodorakis and Vangelis) who wrote for the cinema.

Hadjidakis is best remembered for his Oscar-winning song and score to the 1960 Jules Dassin film Never on a Sunday. Starring Melina Mercouri, Jules Dassin (Mercouri's husband) and Georges Foundas, this was a light-hearted idyll about a visiting intellectual's attempt to inject culture into an earthy Greek prostitute (played by Mercouri). As with many of Hadjidakis' other compositions, the themes in the film drew substantially on popular Greek culture - urban folk music and, in particular, the influence of bouzouki. Mercouri's raw, passionate delivery, to the accompaniment of the lively, jangling bouzouki, was a memorable moment in a quirky comedy. The song was so popular that in Athens many of the taxi- drivers bought car horns that replayed the main hook of the song. Hadjidakis once commented, in the light of the Oscar that the song won: 'I have fought for years to get this honour off my back. I never succeeded but the fight helped to keep me young.'

Born in the northern Greek town of Xanthi in 1925, Manos Hadjidakis was a self-taught musician who worked prolifically in various different musical forms before composing for the cinema. Before the age of 30 he had earned many substantial notices and credits for string compositions in legitimate theatre, several concertos and a ballet. He earned much acclaim for a musical setting of a collection of poems by Nikos Gatsos, Blood Wedding, performed in 1948.

His early compositions for the cinema included Bed of Grass and Stella, both in the same year (1957). Never on a Sunday was his first break and other film commissions followed. These included such Sixties Greek classics as Paper Moon and The Moon is Red, as well as It Happened in Athens (1962), The 300 Spartans (1962) and, directed by Maximilian Schell, The Pedestrian (1974) - a story about a successful industrialist who is revealed to have been a Nazi officer, involved in the slaughter of an entire Greek village.

A particularly popular and successful score was his composition for Jules Dassin's attempt to better his own masterpiece Rififi - Topkapi (1964), featuring Peter Ustinov and Robert Morley. This was a glossy international heist movie based on Eric Ambler's novel The Light of Day about a hit on an Istanbul museum.

Hadjidakis' most interesting composition for the cinema was composed for a little-known and unsuccessful film directed by Silvio Narizzano in 1968, Blue. Starring Karl Malden and featuring Terence Stamp, the film tells of a Mexican-American who is distrustful of all around him until a bullet-wound forces him to be cared for by a woman. Possibly seeking to capitalise on the current chart hit of the soundtrack to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (composed by Ennio Morricone), a soundtrack album was released in both the United States and Britain, but it failed to sell as successfully. The score features a classical guitar, with arrangements which draw on the traditional American western soundtrack, but with an unusual use of strings - in particular the cello. It is one of his major accomplishments but sadly unremembered.

Known for his association with the multilingual ballad singer Nana Mouskouri, Hadjidakis first met the star with 'the voice of longing' in the late Fifties, when she was featured on Greek radio. He wrote hundreds of tunes for many of Greece's popular singers, including Mouskouri's million- selling 1962 hit 'The White Rose of Athens', composed for the film Dreamland of Desire. The song drew from folk roots, being based on a popular tune 'The Water and the Wine'.

Hadjidakis was an outspoken commentator on his society and in later years was particularly active as an organiser of festivals, radio programmes and numerous cultural magazines. A passionate declaimer of the rise of racism in Europe, towards the end of his life he regularly held concerts at which he proclaimed his views. Greece has lost one of its best-loved composers of popular music.

Laurence Staig

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty