Greek Songs About Buildings and Food

So I’m re-watching “The Wire” — again — as a wind-up for Season Five. All told this will be my third time through in sequence. And this time around, I’m noticing the fine use of music more so than I have previously. No less an authority than fantastic Steve Earle*, quoted in Marget Talbot’s truly excellent New Yorker profile, calls show creator David Simon a “music freak,” and I think the eclecticism on display (local hip hop, Top 40 hits, Irish Pogues-sounding stuff for the cops, white blues rock, etc.) supports his assessment.

But the tune that really grabs me is the intense Greek number used to score the climatic montage in Season Two’s penultimate episode. And now, thanks to the bottomless magic of the Internet, here’s an MP3 of the song. Worth a listen even if, for some unnatural reason, you have no interest in “Wire”-related minutiae.

It’s one of those songs that pops into my head a few times a year, even though I’ve only ever encountered it on those several occasions that I’ve watched this episode. Thematically speaking, the song conveys the fevered intensity of deal-making options open to the Sobotka clan, gives the atmosphere a Greek-language jolt of urgency — and features a sweet ’60s electric organ line to boot. I have long been a sucker for almost anything with a Farfisa (e.g., of course, this song).

But who sang this catchy Grecian number? The credits for Episode 24 give no indication. Luckily, obsessive wikipedians had my back: The performer is Stelios Kazantzidis, whose bio makes him sound like the Greek Frank Sinatra. The man was a national icon at home and particularly beloved in the Greek diaspora, to which he addressed famous song that decried “the bread of foreign lands is bitter.” The song titles translated on his Wikipedia page are almost laughably morose: “If I Had My Health,” “That Hut of Mine,” “If I Laugh, It’s a Lie,” “I Thought They Were Friends,” “I Feel a Deep Weariness.” Good stuff.

The title of the song from Episode 24 isn’t translated, unfortunately, but in Greek it’s “Ena Sidero Anameno” and seems to be a torrid love song. The version used on the show is a Kazantzidis-solo rendition, but the MP3 I found is a duet version that makes the song-of-passion element very, very clear. Below the fold, I’ll embed the montage itself.

Here’s an online archive of Stelios Kazantzidis MP3s, of which I’ve sampled just a few. So far, no more Farfisa to be found. If you, my entirely hypothetical readers, feels so moved, report the names of other first-rate songs in the comments.

* Steve Earle’s new album, “Washington Square Park,” is excellent, by the way — and, incidentally, Mr. Earle’s grizzled ex-junky is one of the finest minor-character performances on “The Wire.”

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