The Greek composer of Blade Runner, from chariots of fire and of 1492: Christopher ColumbusVangelis Papathanassiou, nicknamed “Vangelis”, died at the age of 79, announced, Thursday evening May 19, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Twitter.
Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us. (…) The world of music has lost [l’artiste] International Vangelis. The protagonist of electronic sound, Oscars, myth and big hits.
Born March 29, 1943 in the village of Agria, near Volos in central Greece, the artist had drawn his inspiration from space exploration, nature, futuristic architecture, the New Testament and the student movement of May 68. This autodidact always liked to multiply experiences and had passed with ease from psychedelic rock and synth to ethnic music and jazz.
Considered one of the pioneers of electronic music, Vangelis also recently signed the anthem for the Football World Cup, which will take place from November 21 to December 18, 2022 in Qatar.
Among the dozen soundtracks he composed are those of the film by Costa-Gavras missingof gall moons, by Roman Polanski, andAlexander, by Oliver Stone. His soundtrack for chariots of fire, by Hugh Hudson, won an Oscar for the music by John Williams made for the first film ofIndianaJones in 1982.
At the top of the American charts, its composition was also a hit in the United Kingdom and was used for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
A child prodigy, he gave his first piano concert at the age of 6, without having really taken any lessons. “I never studied music”he told the Greek magazine periodiko in 1988, also lamenting “exploitation” increasing imposed by the studios and the media. He had added:
You can sell a million records and feel like a failure. Or you can sell nothing at all and feel very happy.
“Success is sweet and treacherous”
After studying painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts, Vangelis joined the Greek rock band the Forminx in the 1960s. Their success was cut short by the military junta in 1967 which put a damper on freedom of speech.
Trying to reach the UK, he found himself stranded in Paris, during the student movement of May 68, and with two other Greek exiles, Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras, he formed a progressive rock band Aphrodite’s Child. The group has sold millions of records with hits such as Rain and Tears, before disbanding in 1972.
Relocated to London in 1974, Vangelis created Nemo studios, “a sound laboratory”, producer of most of his albums. The composer with the lion’s mane confessed to theObserve in 2012 :
Success is sweet and treacherous. Instead of being able to move freely and do what you really want, you find yourself stuck and having to repeat yourself.
In 2019, in an interview with Los Angeles Timesthe musician claimed to see parallels with the dystopia depicted in the film Blade Runner, from Ridley Scott:
When I saw the images, I understood that this was the future. Not a bright future, of course. But that’s where we’re headed.
Vangelis, who had a planet renamed after him in 1995, had a fascination with space. “Every planet sings”he told this newspaper in 2019.
Legion of Honor in France
In 1980, he participated in the music of the scientific documentary Cosmos, awarded the Carla Sagan Prize. He also wrote music for NASA’s Mars Odyssey in 2001 and the Juno Jupiter missions in 2011, and was inspired in a Grammy-nominated album by the Rosetta spacecraft mission in 2016.
In 2018, he composed a track for Stephen Hawking’s funeral which mentioned the famous professor’s last words.
Vangelis has received the Max Steiner Film Music Award, the Legion of Honor in France, the NASA Public Service Medal, and Greece’s highest honor, the Order of the Phoenix.
During the last years of his life, Vangelis divided his time between Paris, London and Athens, always remaining discreet about his private life. According to several Greek media, the artist died of Covid-19 in France.
“His mastery and stormy inspiration in creating totally original sounds created a global following. He was ecumenical”said Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that the great Greek Vangelis Papathanassiou passed away late on the night of Tuesday May 17”announced his lawyer quoted Thursday by the Greek news agency ANA.
Mr. Mitsotakis also pointed out that Vangelis’ middle name was Ulysses. “For us Greeks, this means that he began his great journey on the Chariots of Fire. From there, he will always send us his notes”Mr. Mitsotakis tweeted again..