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Mikis Theodorakis, ‘Zorba the Greek’ composer, dead at 96

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Mikis Theodorakis, the beloved Greek composer whose rousing music and life of political defiance won acclaim abroad and inspired millions at home, died Thursday. He was 96.

His death at his home in central Athens was announced on state television and followed multiple hospitalizations in recent years, mostly for heart treatment.

Theodorakis’ prolific career that started at age 17 produced a hugely varied body of work that ranged from somber symphonies to popular television and the film scores for “Serpico” and “Zorba the Greek.”

But the towering man with trademark worker suits, hoarse voice and wavy hair also is remembered by Greeks for his stubborn opposition to postwar regimes that persecuted him and outlawed his music.

“He lived with passion, a life dedicated to music, the arts, our country and its people, dedicated to the ideas of freedom, justice, equality, social solidarity,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a statement.

“He wrote music that became intertwined with the historical and social developments in Greece in the postwar years, music that provided encouragement, consolation, protest, and support in the darker periods of our recent history.”

In this Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018 file photo, famous Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis waves a Greek flag after his speech at a rally in Athens, Greece.

Born Michail Theodorakis on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on July 29, 1925, he was exposed to music and politics from a young age.

He began writing music and poetry in his teens, just as Greece entered World War II. During the war, he was arrested by the country’s Italian and German occupiers for his involvement in left-wing resistance groups.

Some of those same groups bitterly opposed the government and monarchy that led immediately Greece after the war, leading to a 1946-49 civil war in which the Communist-backed rebels eventually lost.

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