A month ago, we were lucky to have in our country a concert of Manolis Mitsias (Μανώλης Μητσιάς, born 1946).He performed many beautiful songs and great hits, but just a few of us knew that for most of them he is the original interpreter.
Manolis Mitsias is in the music scene for more than four decades, from the late 1960s; modest man, who chose a modest place in this scene but by which all great masters passed. It was his choice to participate, many times with others, in albums of song cycles where the center is the composer and the lyricist. He is man of social and political awareness who has never agreed to take part in politics itself. On stage he always gives you the feeling that he and you are part of the wonderful company that is present in the music hall…
“I was born in a mountain village of Chalkidiki, which is called Doubia. People there were farmers and plant tobacco. My father was a native man, leftist, having a farmland of ten acres for property on which we used to plant wheat and tobacco and so we were earning a living. Picking tobacco, I think, is my oldest memory. We didn’t have time for playing games as all the other children. We were playing football sometimes. Imagine …the sea was half an hour from the village and I went for swimming for first time when I was 15 years old as we had more regular transportation.”
“I remember my mother singing traditional songs of Macedonia. I was 8 years old and I learned to read; I was going to the church of the village to sing and my parents were proud for this as everybody liked my voice and it was like recognition in a small community where nothing is hidden and everyone knows everything about everyone”
I was in the first class of high school when my father opened a café in the village and we were hanging out with the villagers, that most of the times didn’t have to pay the drinks, and we were singing. I was till late at the café and early in the morning at school…”
“After high school I came to Athens to take exams for becoming a military doctor. 10 drachmas the hotel room per day. I didn’t fall in love with Athens. My passion was Thessaloniki. Tests in Athens were nothing more than a way to certify nationalistic candidates and I was a leftist; then I went to Thessaloniki for the regular tests, where I failed…”
So he attended the university in Thessaloniki as a student of chemistry, doing some jobs for a living and taking part in the Choir of Letters and Arts Club of Northern Greece. The choir got a great reputation but was closed by the junta who had taken power in 1967.
The beginning and Dimos Moutsis
He was trying his luck as a singer in Athens and Thessaloniki, continuing his studies. During his work in a Thessaloniki’s club “the police arrested me for subversion. 41 days in a hole, fictitious executions, beating us till death …in the early days of junta things were hard. They sentenced me for four years in prison, but then, before Christmas they gave a grace and I went out”. Manolis was singing at clubs of Thessaloniki and in the summer of 1968 he was already singing at a club in Athen’s Plaka where he came in touch with singers and composers. One night heard him the already known songwriter Dimos Moutsis(Δήμος Μούτσης), “and the following days I made rehearsals on the songs “Tomorrow again “(Αυριο πάλι) and “With a complaint” (Μ΄ ένα παράπονο ), that Moutsis had written for the film “A mangas in the salons”( Ένας μάγκας στα σαλόνια). Mitsias appeared in the movie with the songs, but the record company released them with a more commercial singer, Grigoris Bithikotsis.
Dimos Moutsis was on Mitsias’ side on his way to the public recognition. In summer 1969 his song “In Elefsina once”(Στην Ελευσίνα μια φορά) was his first recording and on that time he met his life’s love Litsa. “She entered the club, and was beautiful. I was impressed and immediately sought to meet her… Okay, there were romances of our teenage years, but not such as to lead me to the wedding. I always had a good relationship with the female gender, not blame myself. But I never liked to proclaim my adventures or between friends.”
“Elefsina” was released later as Manolis was already a soldier. “September of ’69 finds me in Corinth…I heard from the radio for first time the song while I was having lunch in the camp. I nearly dropped my billycan. Those days were hard… I have a cigarette to smoke and they all hear the song on the radio and think I’m at least a billionaire…”
Next year he got a vacation from the army to record one of his greatest hits, “These hands”(Αυτά τα χέρια), music by Moutsis and lyrics by Lefteris Papadopoulos. The song was included in the movie “Fanny girl” (Ένα Αστείο Κορίτσι) with the famous actress Aliki Vougiouklaki.
Here are these two songs; the “Hands” comes first, performed in his 40 years of career concert at Irwdeio Attiko open theater in 2009.(English subtitles)
Many consider Dimos Moutsis as Manolis Mitsias’ mentor. They continued their cooperation throughout the 1970s for 26 songs altogether.
At the same time, the beginning of the 1970s, another important musician was there for Manolis Mitsias to get the public confirmation, Loukianos Kiladonis (Λουκιανός Κηλαηδόνης).Mitsias participated in two of his first albums. So meaningful was Kiladonis for him that he sung no less than 7 of his songs in the mentioned concert. Here is one of them-“You came like waves”(Ήρθατε σαν κύματα, lyrics: Nikos Gkatsos)) sung by Kiladonis himself. (No translation).
Manos Hatzidakis and Nikos Gkatsos
We are only in 1971 and Manolis Mitsias begins to cooperate with the duo co-writers, Manos Hatzidakis and Nikos Gkatsos. The album is “The gold of the earth” (Της Γης Το Χρυσάφι) in which takes part also Dimitra Galani. In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful albums. Nikos Gkatos shows his art as a story-teller in “Little Rallou”( Η μικρή Ραλλού) on which we had already written*.
Another song of the album that I love very much is “Tonight it has become autumnal” (Απόψε Φθινοπώριασε) (caps)
In 1976, another album of the same writers and singers “Immortality” (Αθανασία) was released. The beautiful title song was written for Mitsias but ultimately it was performed by Dimitra Galani.
One of Mitsias’ songs in the album, which probably will last forever is “Yannis the murderer”(Ο Γιάννης Ο Φονιάς).
There are a lot of theories whether Yannis was a real character and who he was. Gkatsos had never revealed, and it is really not important. What matters is that Gatsos “sets up a thrilling three-minute one-act play…. A room with a table, some chairs, a tray with a glass of mint and a sweet…Inside the room swinging questions, secrets, guilt, compromises, unfulfilled love and lost dreams. And all these in a few syllables and breathy verse, in a dramatic scene that only Gatsos could create.” Listen and see…(caps)
.The second part of Manolis Mitsias story is at
*see about “Little Rallou and “immortality”: https://greeksongstories.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/manos-hatzidakis-and-nikos-gatsos/
Mitsias in early movies
With a complaint: https://youtu.be/TTpxeAQQpfk
These hands: https://youtu.be/x-hZ_Eznde0
Links and Credits in the 2nd part