Vangelis Dead At 79

Fred Mott/Getty Images

Vangelis Dead At 79

Fred Mott/Getty Images

Vangelis, the Oscar-winning composer best known for the synth-heavy scores for Chariots Of Fire and Blade Runner, has died. His representatives confirmed to The Guardian that he died in a hospital in France where he was being treated for an unnamed ailment. He was 79.

Born Ev√°ngelos Papathanass√≠ou in the Greek coastal town of Agria, Vangelis was raised in Athens, where he took to music as early as age 4. Although his parents enrolled him in lessons after noticing his talent, those didn’t take, and he came to believe scholastic music programs impede creativity. In 1963, at age 20, he formed the rock band Forminx and scored his first film, My Brother, The Traffic Policeman. He began doing the music for several other Greek movies throughout the ’60s. He fled the country in 1968 after a military coup and settled in Paris, forming a new band called Aphrodite’s Child with other Greek expats. They immediately found some measure of success with their single “Rain And Tears” and maintained a fruitful career around Europe until breaking up in 1971 while working on 666, a conceptual double album inspired by the book of Revelation.

After the dissolution of Aphrodite’s Child, Vangelis started releasing solo albums, continued to score movies, turned down an invitation to replace Rick Wakeman as the keyboard player in Yes, and spent an increasing amount of time in London, where he relocated in 1974. There, he set up a studio, signed with RCA, released a string of electronic albums, kept on composing for film, and struck up a partnership with Yes singer Jon Anderson under the name Jon And Vangelis. His music was used in Carl Sagan’s influential TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage in 1980. The same year, he agreed to score the low-budget Chariots Of Fire because he appreciated the “humble” people involved and because he liked the idea of honoring his late father, an amateur sprinter.

Vangelis’ piano-led Chariots Of Fire score won him an Oscar, spun off a #1 hit single, and was used at the 1984 Olympics. Next, he worked with Ridley Scott on the score for 1982’s Blade Runner, a sci-fi film that seemed like a more obvious fit for his synth-heavy composition style than Chariots Of Fire. Although reluctant to become “a factory of film music,” he continued taking on select movie score assignments while making records, composing for theatrical productions and sporting events, and collaborating with a range of musicians. Some of his other best-known scores include Missing, Antarctica, The Bounty, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and Alexander.

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