Politically, he identified with the left until the late 1980s; in 1989 he ran as an independent candidate within the centre-right New Democracy party in order for the country to come out of the political crisis that had been created due to the numerous scandals of the government of Andreas Papandreou and helped to establish a large coalition between conservatives, socialists and leftists. In 1990 he was elected to the parliament (as in 1964 and 1981), became a government minister under Constantine Mitsotakis, and fought against drugs and terrorism and for culture, education and better relations between Greece and Turkey. He continues to speak out in favor of left-liberal causes, Greek-Turkish-Cypriot relations, and against the War in Iraq. He has consistently opposed oppressive regimes and was a key voice against the Greek junta 1967-1974, which imprisoned him.
Mikis Theodorakis was born on the Greek island of Chios and spent his childhood years in different provincial Greek cities such as Mytilene,Cephallonia,Patras,Pyrgos, and Tripoli. His father, a lawyer and a civil servant, was from the small village of Kato Galatas, in Crete and his mother, Aspasia Poulakis, was from an ethnically Greek family in Çeşme, in what is today Turkey. He was raised with Greek folk music and was influenced by Byzantineliturgy; as a child he had already talked about becoming a composer. Theodorakis's fascination with music began in early childhood; he taught himself to write his first songs without access to musical instruments. In Patras and Pyrgos he took his first music lessons, and in Tripoli, Peloponnese, he gave his first concert at the age of seventeen.
He went to Athens in 1943, and became a member of a Reserve Unit of ELAS, and led a troop in the fight against the British and the Greek right in the Dekemvriana. During the Greek Civil War he was arrested, sent into exile on the island of Icaria and then deported to the island of Makronisos, where he was tortured and twice buried alive.
During the periods when he was not obliged to hide, not exiled or jailed, he studied from 1943 to 1950 at the Athens Conservatoire under Filoktitis Economidis. In 1950, he finished his studies and took his last two exams "with flying colours". He went to Crete, where he became the "head of the Chania Music School" and founded his first orchestra. At this time he ended what he has called the first period of his musical writing.
Studies in Paris
In 1954 he travelled with his young wife Myrto Altinoglou to Paris where he entered the Conservatory and studied musical analysis under Olivier Messiaen and conducting under Eugene Bigot. His time in Paris, 1954–1959, was his second period of musical writing.
Chamber Music: Four String Quartets; Trio four piano, violin, cello; Little Suite for piano; Sonatina for piano; Sonatinas No.1 and No.2 for violin and piano;
Symphonic music: Assi-Gonia (symphonic movement; Piano Concerto "Helicon"; Symphony No.1 (Proti Simfonia); Suites n° 1, 2 et 3 for orchestre; La Vie et la Mort / Live and Death (for voice and strings); Œdipus Tyrannos (for strings; later for quartet and symphony orchestra); Piano Concerto;
Ballets: Greek Carnival; Le Feu aux Poudres; Les Amants de Teruel; Antigone;
Mikis Theodorakis shortly after his return to Greece, 1961,with Nicholas G. Constantin, Athanasios G. Konstantinopoulos, and Bill Vanech on his right, in his club called MYRTIA
In 1960, Theodorakis returned to Greece and his roots in genuine Greek music: With his song cycle Epitaphios he started the third period of his composing and contributed to a cultural revolution in his country. His most significant and influential works are based Greek and world poetry – Epiphania (Giorgos Seferis), Little Kyklades (Odysseas Elytis), Axion Esti (Odysseas Elytis), Mauthausen (Iakovos Kambanellis), Romiossini (Yannis Ritsos), and Romancero Gitano (Federico García Lorca) – he attempted to give back to Greek music a dignity which in his perception it had lost. He developed his concept of "metasymphonic music" (symphonic compositions that go beyond the "classical" status and mix symphonic elements with popular songs, Western symphonic orchestra and Greek popular instruments).
He founded the Little Orchestra of Athens and the Musical Society of Piraeus, gave many, many concerts all around Greece and abroad... and he naturally became involved in the politics of his home country. After the assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis in May 1963 he founded the Lambrakis Democratic Youth ("Lambrakidès") and was elected its president. Under Theodorakis's impetus, it started a vast cultural renaissance movement and became the greatest political organisation in Greece with more than 50.000 members. Following the 1964 elections, Theodorakis became a member of the Greek Parliament, associated with the left-wing party EDA. Because of his political ideas, the composer was black-listed by the cultural establishment; at the time of his biggest artistic glory, a large number of his songs were censored-before-studio or were not allowed on the radio stations.
During 1964, he wrote the music for the Michael Cacoyiannis film Zorba the Greek, whose main theme, since then, exists as a trademark for Greece. It is also known as 'Syrtaki dance'; inspired from old Cretan traditional dances.
Music for the Stage: The Hostage (Brendan Behan); Ballad of the Dead Brother (Theodorakis); Omorphi Poli (Beautiful City); Maghiki Poli (Magical City); I Gitonia ton Angelon(The Angels' Quarter, Iakovos Kambanellis)
Song cycles: Ta Laïka (The Popular Songs, Manos Elefteriou);O Ilios ke o Chronos (Sun and Time, Theodorakis); Songs for Andreas (Theodorakis); Arcadies I-X; Nichta Thanatou (Nights of Death, Manos Elefteriou);
While in exile, Theodorakis fought during four years for the overthrow of the colonels. He started his world tours and gave thousands of concerts on all continents as part of his struggle for the restoration of democracy in Greece.
Mikis Theodorakis at a concert in Caesarea, Israel, in the 1970s.
After the fall of the Colonels, Mikis Theodorakis returned to Greece on 24 July 1974 to continue his work and his concert tours, both in Greece and abroad. At the same time he participated in public affairs. In 1978, through his article For a United Left Wing, he had "stirred up the Greek political life. His proposal for the unification of the three parties of the former United Left – which had grown out of the National Liberation Front (N.L.F.) – had been accepted by the Greek Communist Party which later proposed him as the candidate for mayor of Athens during the 1978 elections." (Andreas Brandes) He was later elected several times to the Greek Parliament (1981–1986 and 1989–1993) and for two years, from 1990 to 1992, he was a minister in the government of Constantine Mitsotakis. After his resignation as a member of Greek parliament, he was appointed General Musical Director of the Choir and the two Orchestras of the Hellenic State Radio (ERT), which he reorganised and with which he undertook successful concert tours abroad.
He is committed to heightening international awareness of human rights, of environmental issues, and of the need for peace and for this reason he initiated, together with the Turkish author, musician, singer, and filmmaker Zülfü Livaneli the Greek–Turkish Friendship Society.
From 1981, Theodorakis had started the fourth period of his musical writing, during which he returned to the symphonic music, while still going on to compose song-cycles. His most significant works written in these years are his Second, Third, Fourth and Seventh Symphony, most of them being first performed in the former German Democratic Republic between 1982 and 1989. It was during this period that he received the Lenin Peace Prize. He composed his first opera Kostas Kariotakis (The Metamorphoses of Dionysus) and the ballet Zorba the Greek, premièred in the Arena of Verona during the Festival Verona 1988. During this period, he also wrote the five volumes of his autobiography: The Ways of the Archangel (Οι δρόμοι του αρχάγγελου).
In 1989, he started the fifth period, the last, of his musical writing: He composed three operas (lyric tragedies) Medea, first performed in Bilbao (1 October 1991), Elektra, first performed in Luxembourg (2 May 1995) and Antigone, first performed in Athens' Megaron Moussikis (7 October 1999). This trilogy was complemented by his last opera Lysistrata, first performed in Athens (14 April 2002): a call for peace... With his operas, and with his song cycles from 1974 to 2006, Theodorakis ushered in the period of his Lyrical Life.
For a period of 10 years, Alexia Vassiliou teamed up with Mikis Theodorakis and his Popular Orchestra. During that time, and as a tribute to Theodorakis’s body of work, Vassiliou recorded a double album showcasing some of the composer’s most consummate musical creations, and in 1998, Sony BMG released the album entitled Alexia–Mikis Theodorakis.
Theodorakis is Doctor honoris causa of several universities, including Montreal, Thessaloniki, and Crete.
Now he lives in retirement, reading, writing, publishing arrangements of his scores, texts about culture and politics. On occasions he still takes position: in 1999, opposing NATO's Kosovo war and in 2003 against the Iraq War. In 2005, he was awarded the Sorano Friendship and Peace Award, the Russian International St.-Andrew-the-First-Called Prize, the insignia of Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of Luxembourg, and the IMC UNESCO International Music Prize, while already in 2002 he was honoured in Bonn with the Erich Wolfgang Korngold Prize for film music at the International Film Music Biennial in Bonn (cf also: Homepage of the Art and Exhibition Hall Bonn). In 2007, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the distribution of the World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent.
A final set of songs entitled: Odysseia was composed by utilizing poetry written by Costas Kartelias for lyrics. In 2009 he composed a Rhapsody for Strings (Mezzo-Soprano or Baryton ad lib.)Created on 30 January 2013, Theodorakis achieved the distinction of producing one of the largest works by any composer of any time.
Main works after 1974
Song cycles: Ta Lyrika; Dionysos; Phaedra; Beatrice in Zero Street; Radar; Chairetismoi (Greetings); Mia Thalassa (A Sea Full of Music); Os archaios Anemos (Like an Ancient Wind); Lyrikotera (The More-Than-Lyric Songs); Lyrikotata (The Most Lyric Songs); Erimia (Solitude); Odysseia;
Symphonic music and cantatas: Symphonies no 2, 3, 4, 7; According to the Sadducees; Canto Olympico; Guitar Rhapsody; Cello Rhapsody; Trumpet Rhapsody; Rhysody for Strings (Mezzo-Sopran or Baryton ad lib.)
Theodorakis has spoken out against the Iraq war and Israel's occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has condemned Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou for establishing closer relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was guilty, he said, of "war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza."
Views of the United States
During the invasion of Iraq, Theodorakis called Americans "detestable, ruthless cowards and murderers of the people of the world." He said he would consider anyone who interacted with "these barbarians" as his enemy.
2010–2011: Calling for revolution
On 1 December 2010 Mikis Theodorakis founded "Spitha: People's Independent Movement", a non-political movement which calls people to gather and express their political ideas. The main goal of "Spitha" is to help Greece stay clear of its economic crisis. On 31 May Mikis Theodorakis gave a speech attended by appropximately 10,000 Greeks in the center of Athens, criticising the Greek government for the loan debt it has taken from the International Monetary Fund. It was also the first time in many decades that he called for revolution.
Songs and song cycles
Theodorakis has written more than 1,000 songs and song-cycles, whose melodies have become part of the heritage of Greek music: Sto Perigiali, Kaimos, Aprilis, Doxa to Theo, Sotiris Petroulas, Lipotaktes, Stis Nichtas to Balkoni, Agapi mou, Pou petaxe t'agori mou, Anixe ligo to parathiro, O Ipnos se tilixe, To gelasto pedi, Dendro to dendro, Asma Asmaton, O Andonis...
His song cycles are based on poems by Greek authors, as well as by Lorca and Neruda: Epitaphios, Archipelagos, Politia A-D, Epiphania, The Hostage, Mykres Kyklades, Mauthausen, Romiossini, Sun and Time, Songs for Andreas, Mythology, Night of Death, Ta Lyrika, The Quarters of the World, Dionysos, Phaedra, Mia Thalassa, Os Archaios Anemos, Ta Lyrikotera, Ta Lyrikotata, Erimia, Odysseia. Theodorakis released two albums of his songs and song cycles on Paredon Records and Folkways Records in the early seventies, including his Peoples' Music: The Struggles of the Greek People (1974).
1952: Piano Concerto "Helikon"
1953: First Symphony ("Proti Simfonia")
1954–1959: 3 Orchestral Suites
1958: Piano Concerto
1981: Symphony No 2 ("The Song of the Earth"; text: Mikis Theodorakis) for children's choir, piano, and orchestra
Guy Wagner: Mikis Theodorakis. Mia Zoi yia tin Ellada. Typothito - Giorgos Dardanos, 2002. ISBN 960-402-008-0 (The biography exists also in French: Mikis Theodorakis. Une Vie pour la Grèce. Editions Phi, Luxembourg, 2000; and in German: Mikis Theodorakis. Ein Leben für Griechenland. Editions Phi, Luxembourg, 1995)
Asteris Kutulas: Mikis Theodorakis. A Life in pictures (in German), Coffee-table book with 1 DVD & 2 CDs. Schott Music, Mainz 2010, ISBN 978-3-7957-0713-2
Arja Saijonmaa: En ung naken kvinna : mötet med Mikis (A young naked woman - the meeting with Mikis), ISBN 978-91-642-0345-8 (bound) Stockholm : Piratförlaget, 2011 Swedish 443 pages,  picture pages + 1 CD with four songs by Mikis Theodorakis.
Published written works
Books in Greek by Theodorakis
Για την ελληνική μουσική (About Greek music)
Το τραγούδι του νεκρού αδελφού
Το μανιφέστο των Λαμπράκηδων
Δημοκρατική και συγκεντρωτική αριστερά
Οι μνηστήρες της Πηνελόπης
Περί τέχνης (Essays and articles about art)
Πού πάμε; (Where are we going?, Gnosis Publishing House, Athens 1988)
Ανατομία της μουσικής (Anatomy of the Music, 1983)
Οι δρόμοι του αρχάγγελου Ι-V (Mikis Theodorakis, Paths of the Archangel (Autobiography), Kedros Publishing House, Athens 1986-88)
^Newsweek. Newsweek, Incorporated. 1973. Retrieved 1 November 2012. "Mikis Theodorakis, the famous Greek composer, is one of the most vocal exiles. Imprisoned but released due to the intervention of French publisher-politician Jean-Jacques Servan- Schreiber, Theodorakis believes that the regime is a puppet"
^Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (7 June 1997). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 92–. ISSN00062510. Retrieved 1 November 2012. "In April, famous Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis conducted the Choir and Symphonic Orchestra of"
^George Giannaris (1972). Mikis Theodorakis: music and social change. Praeger. Retrieved 3 November 2012. "For nearly six months, Mikis remained on the island of Crete trying to put the past behind, and become a human being ... For too long, he had been a drain on hisfather who was finding it difficult to practice his profession in the tiny village of KatoGalata, or even the larger town of Cha- nia. There was no dearth of lawyersestablished in the area for years, and even though Yiorgos had been born there, his"
^Sir Compton Mackenzie; Christopher Stone (2005). The Gramophone. C. Mackenzie. Retrieved 3 November 2012. "MIKIS THEODORAKIS AT 80 Mikis Theodoralris celebrated his 80th birthday on July 29 this year. ... His mother had moved to the Greek islands from Asia Minor just before the Lausanne Peace Conference in 1923 obliged 1.5 million other"
^Journal of Modern Hellenism. Hellenic College Press. 2001. Retrieved 3 November 2012. "While there is no record of a young Mikis Theodorakis being subjected to any serious direct personal physical or psychological trauma, he did grew up in ... Hismother, Aspasia Poulakis, was a refugee form Tsemes, a coastal city in Asia Minor"
^Mikis Theodorakis (1973). Journals of resistance. Hart-Davis McGibbon. ISBN978-0-246-10597-4. Retrieved 3 November 2012. "29 July 1925 Mikis Theodorakis is born on the island of Chios. ... Theodorakis learns to sing Byzantine hymns and, since his father is from Crete and his motherfrom the Greek colony in Asia Minor, he also gets to know the very varied tradition="
^Theodorakis: Οι δρόμοι του αρχάγγελου ΙI / The Ways of the Archangel, Autobiography, Volume II, Ch. 3, p. 11 sq; cf. also p. 174sq; Mikis Theodorakis, Τα δικά μου Δεκεμβριανά / My December '44, 1944: Ο Μοιραίος Δεκέμβριος / The Fateful December, special supplement of newspaper 'Vima', Sunday, 5 December 2010, p. 54.