Piraeus is definitely one of the cities that can take pride in having lots of songs written about it.
To begin with, for Piraeus has been written one of the best known and more recognizable songs in the world. And this is no other than “Never on Sunday” music theme. Written by an emblematic figure of the contemporary Greek music, Manos Hatzidakis, the song was sung by Melina Merkouri who starred in Dassin’s film “Never on Sunday”, and won the Academy Award for Best Song.
It was the first song whose lyrics weren’t in English to win an Oscar. Melina sang it in Greek with the lyrics telling the story of the film’s main female character Illya, expressing her wish to have children of her own that would be born and raised in Piraeus. The original Greek title of the song is “Ta paidia tou Piraia“, meaning “The Children from Piraeus”.
Sung in English, French, Spanish, German and even Mandarin, “Never on Sunday” can be heard in lots of different versions, the instrumental ones included. If a term can be applied to this phenomenon, then it is “evergreen”.
Numerous songs have been written about Piraeus; they may not have had the international success “Never on Sunday” had, still they are really popular in Greece.
Piraeus has been the ideal location for many directors to set their movies in. Let us mention only a few:
- Jules Dassin’s “Never on Sunday”, with Melina Merkouri in the leading role of a free-spirited prostitute living in the port of Piraeus.
- Jules Dassin’s “Faidra”, a film vaguely based on the Greek myth of Faidra, Thisseas’ second wife, who falls in love with her husband’s son, Hippolytos, with Melina Merkouri as Faidra and Anthony Perkins as Hippolytos.
- Nikos Georgiadis’ “The Red Lights”, an exceptional film portraying the world of Trouba, the brothel neighborhood of Piraeus, nominated for the Oscar for Foreign Language Film as well as for the Palme d’ Or in the Festival de Cannes (1964).
- Dinos Dimopoulos’ “Lola”, again a movie taking place in Trouba, following the lives of the prostitutes working in a brothel (1965).
- Henry Verneuil’s “Le Casse” – English title: “The Burglars” (1971), with Jean-Paul Belmondo in the leading role. The chase scene taking place in the city of Piraeus remained a classic one.