Manolis Rasoulis was an important lyricist. One may say that the course of his life began with his name; Emmanuel (Manolis) means “God with us” in Hebrew, and Ar-Rasul is an apostle in Islam. On the one hand his life was passionately dedicated to harmony and love among people, and between people and their environment, as based on Osho’s saying “everything flows”. On the other hand, as a mirror image, he was uncompromising in his fights and revolutionary spirit confrontations with any feature of human nature that stood in the way of this harmony such as social injustice, exploitation, spoiling the environment and most of all, the establishment. His competence in writing made the song a major way of communicating his feelings and ideas.
He was born in Heraklion,Crete in 1945. His father had already spent years in the Italian prison for his leftist activism. He himself entered the young organization of the Left and proved to be the best student in his class. At the end of high school he began to show his ability as a singer to his classmates, who loved his singing and urged him to move to the “Big City”, Athens. At 18 he did so: “I left a real paradise and I found myself in the arena, the Coliseum to fight. I liked the idea of fighting. I had the Alexander syndrome. I wanted to conquer the world. I considered myself better…”
He studied cinema, worked at a left-oriented newspaper and began to take part in every social struggle and demonstration; there, on the streets, beyond the posters, the seeds of his lyrics were sowed.
In 1967-1974, the years of the Hunta regime, he stayed in London, participated in the activities of the Trotskyte left wing movement. There he wrote his first songs. He was seriously wounded in the students’ uprising in Paris and called his daughter Natalie, in honor of Trotsky’s wife.
During the later part of the 1970s Manolis steps to the stage-front of Greek music with songs that have became very popular, many of them to this day. “He would write lyrics about everything that preoccupied his lively soul, his warm heart and spirit: love (fulfilled and hurtful), political scandals, people that sacrificed their lives in favour of their ideals, good old fun among friends, his beloved homeland (Crete)… it’s a never-ending list,” says the singer Katherina Siapanta.
Manolis continued to write songs, books and articles and to make “confrontations with establishments of all sorts,” as he put it. He paid dearly and personally for these, especially in the form of his isolation in the music industry, being considered suspect and even, unjustly, dangerous, especially as he followed Osho, the guru of meditation who was himself controversial.
In a 2008 interview he said: “I think I have a particular role, which I have taken on like the stone of Sisyphus. I must step into the most difficult things of humanity and to solve the Gordian knot… I have an awareness of things, and I document it through my books, songs and on the radio.”
He would never let music companies to divert his mastery in words and his ability of expression from the issues he was dealing with for commercial purposes, and he felt that he had an influence. Art and songs were for Rassoulis the “the strongest medium to reach people’s heart and mind” says his daughter, Natalie, who is a singer herself. “His motto was ‘Emotion, but with consciousness’ “. But at the same time he was aware that there are bigger things which control the world in the long run than the poet’s temporary life span.
What is song for Manolis beyond ideology? “Without song I would be lost. Song saved me… we try to write a song to communicate with ordinary people, who have been lost in the deteriorated situation and the stress. We try to give them a bit, just a little bit of fun…. When I write a song I am addressing the welder in Perama (a shipyard) who will sing it.”
Here is Manolis Rassoulis’ famous song on the social struggler who is at a time of fatigue and looks for some encouragement. Music by Manos Loizos:
Almost fifty years
of suffering and persecution
now in this time of torment
(you get) unworthy reward.
The right cause of the struggle
deprived you of many things
but life like a pregnant woman
gave birth to hope.
Nothing goes to waste
in your wasted life
I revive your dream
and your every “why”
You never say that fate
has been unjust to you
but only that History
spoke to you differently.
Head down at the coffee shops
thoughtful in the streets
but yesterday at the protest march
you walked smiling.
The first version is by Haris Alexiou, Lakis Lazopulos and Martha Frintzila (Press for English caps)
A more personal version of 1985 by Vasilis Papakonstantinou and Thanos Mikroutsikos (Piano) who have been sharing Rasoulis and Loizos’ leftist views.) English caps.
“…I love everything and all but I am afraid I am the but-man of your neighborhood who wants desperately to communicate with you to wish you a happy new year and all the best for the planet and humanity, but I find it very difficult, although not impossible”
Manolis Rasoulis passed away on 5 March 2011 at 66 years of age.Notes: I would like to thank very much to Katherina Siapanta and Natalie Rassoulis for their contribution to this post! Rasoulis’ official site http://www.rasoulis.gr/english/index.html , an interview to “Difwno” Magazine at: http://www.metropolisfm.info/2011/03/blog-post_5062.html The third song is “File” –friend, sung by Rasoulis. The music is by Petros Vagiopoulos. The song for the sake of the environment at my post “In the mirror of eras” was dedicated to Manolis Rasoulis https://greeksongstories.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/in-the-mirror-of-eras-2/ Many thanks to Anastasia Thanela and Katerina Siapanda!