Who was Vangelis ?
Vangelis, the legendary Greek-born electronic musician and songwriter best known for his electronic theme to the Oscar-winning ‘Chariots of Fire,’ has died at the age of 79.
According to the Athens News Agency, Vangelis, born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, died on Wednesday, May 18, his lawyer’s office said, but did not give a cause of death.
Cause of Death
Greek media reported that Vangelis died in a French hospital.
The mostly self-taught reclusive keyboard wizard was a lifelong experimenter, moving from psychedelic rock and synths to ethnic music and jazz.
In a career that spanned more than five decades, Vangelis drew inspiration from space exploration, wildlife, futuristic architecture, the New Testament, and the 1968 French student riots.
He played in various bands and solo, but his breakthrough came with the score for Chariots Of Fire, a 1981 film that told the story of two British racers in the 1920s.
Vangelis’s score received one of the four Academy Awards the film won, but he was fast asleep in London when the Oscar results were announced on March 29, 1982, his 39th birthday.
“He was out late celebrating,” he later told People magazine.
His theme for ‘Chariots of Fire’ topped John Williams’ score for the first Indiana Jones film in 1982. It went to the top of the US charts and was a lasting hit in Britain, where it was used during award ceremonies. of medals of the Olympic Games of London 2012. .
The iconic piece is one of the world’s hardest-to-forget movie tunes, and has also served as the background music for countless slow-motion parodies.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and other government officials expressed their condolences on Thursday. “Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us,” Mitsotakis tweeted.
Born on March 29, 1943, near the city of Volos in central Greece, Vangelis began playing the piano at age 4, though he received no formal training and claimed he never learned to read notes.
“I have never studied music,” he told the Greek magazine Periodiko in 1988, in which he also lamented the increasing “exploitation” imposed by the studios and the media.
‘At one point there was a madness… now it’s a job.’
‘You can sell a million records feeling like a failure. Or you may not sell anything feeling very happy,” he said.
The young Vangelis developed an early interest in music and experimented with the sounds produced by banging pots and pans or placing nails, glasses and other objects on the strings of his parents’ piano.
He absorbed the tones of Greek folk songs and Orthodox Christian choral music, but had no formal musical training, which he later said had helped salvage his sense of creativity.
After studying painting at the School of Fine Arts in Athens, Vangelis joined the popular Greek rock group The Forminx. But success was cut short in 1967 by the arrival of a military junta that repressed freedom of expression.
When he found his feet far from home, he was drawn to the then-new field of electronic synthesizers that allowed him to create the lush melodic colors that became his signature sound.
Trying to reach England, he found himself trapped in Paris during the 1968 student movement and joined fellow Greek expatriates Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras to form the progressive rock group Aphrodite’s Child.
The group achieved cult status, selling millions of records with hits like ‘Rain and Tears’ before disbanding in 1972. Vangelis and Roussos went on to have successful solo careers.
Despite enjoying success in the European “progressive rock” scene of the early 1970s, he was uncomfortable with the expectations of a commercial artist and largely withdrew into the recording studio he created for himself. in London.
Moving to the English capital in 1974, Vangelis created Nemo Studios, the “sound laboratory” that produced most of his solo albums for over a decade.
His work on more than a dozen soundtracks includes ‘Missing’, ‘Antarctica’, ‘The Bounty’, Costa-Gavras’ ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’, Roman Polanski’s ‘Bitter Moon’ and Oliver Stone.
He also wrote music for theater and ballet, as well as the anthem for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Chariots of Fire
The success of “Chariots of Fire” overshadowed his other scores, but he wrote the music for several major films, including “Missing,” directed by compatriot Costa-Gavras, and Ridley Scott’s futuristic thriller “Blade Runner.”
He was a prolific composer for many decades, his work ranging from commercial music and movie soundtracks to elaborate symphonic-style compositions and ‘Jon and Vangelis’, his duet with Jon Anderson, lead singer of the progressive rock group And it is.
But he was wary of commercial success and valued his independence over record sales, once telling an interviewer that he never saw music as mere entertainment.
“Success is sweet and treacherous,” the lion-maned songwriter told the Observer newspaper in 2012. “Instead of being able to move freely and do what you really want, you find yourself stuck and forced to repeat yourself.”
Vangelis readily admitted to the Los Angeles Times in 1986 that “half the movies I see don’t need music. It sounds like something stuffed.
‘When I saw some images, I understood that this is the future. Not a pretty future, of course. But this is where we’re going,” he said.
Vangelis, whose minor planet was named after him in 1995, had a fascination with space from an early age.
“Every planet sings,” he told the LA Times in 2019. He said he saw parallels with the dystopian world depicted in “Blade Runner,” for which he also wrote a score.
In 1980, he contributed music to Carl Sagan’s award-winning science documentary Cosmos. He wrote music for NASA’s Mars Odyssey missions in 2001 and Juno Jupiter in 2011, and a Grammy-nominated album inspired by the Rosetta space probe mission in 2016.
In 2018, he composed a piece for Stephen Hawking’s funeral that included the late professor’s words and was beamed into space by the European Space Agency.
Vangelis received the Max Steiner film music award, the French Legion of Honor, the NASA Public Service Medal, and Greece’s highest honor, the Order of the Phoenix.
In later years, Vangelis moved between houses in Paris, London, and Athens, carefully guarding his privacy. Little is known of his personal life.
“I don’t give interviews because I have to try to say things that I don’t need to say,” he told the LA Times in 2019.
‘All I need to do is just make music.’
Vangelis Quick and Facts
- Greek media has reported that Vangelis died in a French hospital on Wednesday
- His huge breakthrough came with the score for Chariots of Fire, a 1981 film which told the story of two British runners in the 1920s, which won four Oscars
- Vangelis’s score received one of the four Academy Awards that the film bagged
- He started playing piano at age four and never received formal training