- Film & TV
- 20 May 22
Vangelis passed away in the French hospital where he was being treated, his representatives say.
Vangelis, the composer of film scores for Blade Runner and Chariots of Fire, has passed away aged 79, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced via Twitter. According to his representatives, he died in the French hospital where he was being treated.
Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in 1943, Vangelis grew up in Athens, mostly teaching himself music. He formed his first musical group, a pop-tribute band called Forminx, in 1963; covering the popular tracks of the time, Vangelis would play sweeping organ lines behind clashing rock n' roll or soaring Beatles covers.
After three years, the group broke up and Vangelis became a freelance writer and producer, working on scores for Greek films and working for other musicians before moving to Paris at age 25. There, he met fellow Greek transplants and formed a prog-rock quartet called Aphrodites Child, which allowed the musician to experiment with the synth and heavy melodic layering that would go on to define his sound. With them, he saw his first hit, 'Rain and Tears,' which would top Belgian, French and Italian Charts.
Disillusioned by the world of commercial pop — calling it "very boring" — the composer retreated to a solitary recording studio in London, declining an offer to play keyboards in English-prog rock powerhouse Yes. It was here that he signed a solo deal with RCA records: his albums Heaven and Hell (1975) and Albedo 0.39 (1976) reaching UK Top 40. He finally connected with Yes later in the '70s, joining up with Jon Anderson for the duo Jon and Vangelis, who would reach Top 5 with their debut album, Short Stories (1980).
It was in London that he wrote the score for Chariots of Fire, whose soaring melody and timeless theme became synonymous with the slow-motion sports montage. It would go on to win Vangelis an Oscar, top the US charts, and the uplifting piano motif would become inextricable with the film — playing a large part in cementing it as one of the most iconic sports movies in history.
Ever wary of commercial success, Vangelis dismissed the enormous popularity Chariots of Fire enjoyed — telling one interviewer "it's only another piece of music." It would not be the end of his scoring success, though, as he composed Ridley Scott's 1982 distopia, Blade Runner. Employing eerie, long synths, sparse piano and lush saxophones, Vangelis used the sounds of the time to paint a picture of a bleak future Los Angeles, underscoring the sinister plot with drawn-out, held-breath instrumentals.
Vangelis would continue to score films over the following decades, including Palm d'Or winning drama Missing, 1492: Conquests of Paradise and The Bounty. In more recent years, he soundtracked major events such as the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, wrote ballet scores for shows the likes of The Tempest and Medea, and continued with his solo work — releasing outer-space themed Juno to Jupiter in 2021.
Known for his marriage of electronic beats and timeless instrumentation, Vangelis will be remembered for his ability to perfectly match music to film, drawing on Greek and popular influences to create instant classics.
Many have taken to social media to pay tribute to the musical icon:
We will all remember your unique touch and your moving melodies forever.
You & I have always shared the same passion for synthesizers and electronic music since so long…
May you Rest In Peace,
JMJ x https://t.co/dAGvZEVENH
— Jean-Michel Jarre (@jeanmicheljarre) May 19, 2022
Ad astra, Vangelis.
The film composer contributed scores to explorations by our #JunoMission to Jupiter. Here, ride along with the @NASASolarSystem spacecraft around Jupiter and moon Ganymede, with sound up.
Full playlist: https://t.co/bNyqzQGWRS pic.twitter.com/2QbjoKStko
— NASA (@NASA) May 19, 2022
Very sad to hear the news of the recent passing of Vangelis. I’d always loved his soundtrack to Blade Runner. Then in the mid 90’s I had the honour of writing & singing a song on his album “Voices”; an immense talent that will be missed by his family, and the world of music pic.twitter.com/QkkmxfarmZ
— Paul Young (@PaulYoungParlez) May 19, 2022
“Chariots of Fire” and “Blade Runner” were among the most innovative and influential scores in the history of the medium. My personal favorite melody of his was “Conquest of Paradise.” A true musical pioneer. Thank you, #Vangelis. #RIP https://t.co/AUGggSpgXK
— Bear McCreary 🐻🎶 (@bearmccreary) May 19, 2022
Thanks Vangelis. 💔 pic.twitter.com/jsyTn1296J
— Warren Ellis (@warrenellis13) May 19, 2022
I’m so sad to hear these terrible news of the passing of Vangelis. I had the privilege to meet him in Paris last year. He was one of my heroes, a big inspiration and just a beautiful person. I still listen to his albums a lot. May he rest in peace. 😢 pic.twitter.com/iexSTK4MPk
— Armin van Buuren (@arminvanbuuren) May 19, 2022
The world has lost a genius. Vangelis created music of extraordinary originality & power, & provided the soundtrack to so many of our lives. We’ve had the pleasure of partnering with Vangelis for his past 3 albums & we will miss him enormously. His music will live on forever. pic.twitter.com/FvB3p2dunI
— Decca Records (@DeccaRecords) May 19, 2022
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