“Never on Sunday” was written by Manos Hadjidakis originally in Greek with the title “Ta Paidia tou Peiraia” (The children of Piraeus). The original Greek version was performed in the film by Melina Mercouri.
The original Greek lyrics tell the story of the main female character of the film, Illya (Mercouri). Illya is a jolly woman who enjoys life, the town and the people of her native Piraeus. Although she earns her money as a prostitute, she longs to meet a man someday who is just as full of joie de vivre as she is herself.
In 1960, the song was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, a first for a foreign-language picture since the Academy began to recognize achievements in this category in 1934.
Following the success of the orchestral version as well as the Oscar win, an English language version of the song was commissioned to be written especially to match the title of the film. The lyrics to the English version of the song were written by Billy Towne.
As the English version was written with the goal of matching to the title of the film, it fails to depict the film’s true spirit and story as the original Greek version does.