Pop Culture

Vangelis Dead at 79

Vangelis, the Oscar-winning composer best known for scoring Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire, and many other films, has died. According to the Associated Press, the musician died in a hospital in France. Vangelis was 79 years old.

Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in the Greek coastal town of Agria, Vangelis grew up in Athens and showed an interest in music as early as age 4. In 1963, he formed a band called Forminx, and became a writer and producer for hire when the group split in 1966. After moving to Paris, he found success in the prog-rock outfit Aphrodite’s Child, which he founded with other Greek expats and sold over 2 million copies before disbanding in 1972.  Having turned down an invitation to replace Rick Wakeman as the keyboard player in Yes, Vangelis continued composing for films and began releasing solo albums. He moved to London and signed a deal with RCA Records, and his 1976 LP Albedo 0.39 was used to soundtrack Carl Sagan’s popular TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. He later teamed up with Yes singer Jon Anderson, with whom he released several records under the name Jon and Vangelis.

Vangelis’ work for Chariots of Fire earned him an Oscar for Best Original Score. The soundtrack album also topped the Billboard 200 albums chart in April 1982, while the theme has often featured at the Olympic Games. Vangelis then worked on the score for Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner, which is celebrated as one of the most influential albums in the history of electronic music. Vangelis’ final studio album, Juno to Jupiter, came out in September 2021 via Decca.

Eulogizing the composer on Twitter, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, wrote on Twitter: “Vangelis Papathanassíou is no longer with us. For the whole world, the sad news suggests that the world of music has lost the international Vangelis. The pioneer of electronic sound, the Oscars, the Myth and the great hits. For us Greeks, however, knowing that his second name was Odysseus, means that he began his long journey in the Chariots of Fire. From there he will always send us his notes.”

“Vangelis Papathanassíou was a great Greek composer who excelled at a global level,” Nikos Dendias, the foreign minister of Greece, tweeted. “We say goodbye with a big ‘thank you’ for what he offered to Music, Culture and Greece.”

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