Chariots of Fire composer Vangelis dies during covid treatment
Vangelis, a pioneer of electronic music who won an Oscar for “Chariots of Fire” and made other groundbreaking film scores like “Blade Runner,” died on Tuesday, according to the Athens News Agency. He was 79. Greek media say that he died in a French hospital where he was getting treatment for COVID-19.
The performer was self-taught and worked for a long time in European popular music before the enchanted surfaces and shades of his solo albums in the 1970s brought him to the attention of film and TV makers. Carl Sagan’s 1980 PBS series “Universe” used a song from his 1975 album “Heaven and Hell” as its theme. This made his name and music well-known in the United States.
But it was the music he wrote for the 1981 movie “Chariots of Fire” that made him well-known all over the world. After hearing Vangelis’ music for the French nature story “Opera Sauvage” and the studio collection “China,” director David Puttnam made an odd choice for his historical sports drama.
Vangelis played all of the instruments at once, including the synthesiser, piano, drums, and percussion, as he often did. His interesting topic hypnotised moviegoers, and the soundtrack went to number one on the Billboard charts and was nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year.
He didn’t go to the Oscars, even though he won one in March 1982. He told a British columnist at the time, “They put a lot of pressure on me to go to America for the Oscar, but I could do without being pushed, especially for that.” I don’t like the idea of a contest.”
The Oscar he won for “Chariots of Fire” made him a very good film writer very quickly. Ridley Scott hired him to work on “Blade Runner,” a science fiction movie, and Costa-Gavras worked with him on “Missing,” a drama with Jack Lemmon. Both of these movies came out in 1982 and were given BAFTA grants. Mel Gibson kept making changes to “The Bounty” in 1984.
After that, Ridley Scott’s “1492: Conquest of Paradise” (1992) and Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” (2004), were both less well-known but still artistically convincing because they mixed hardware with regular ensembles and ensembles, were both made. He also did the music for Roman Polanski’s spooky thriller “Harsh Moon” (1992).
Vangelis was born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassou on March 29, 1943, and he grew up in Athens. He taught himself how to play the piano and started a band called the Forminx in 1963. They played covers of popular songs and songs by the Beatles. A couple of years later, he started working on film scores and meetings. After moving to Paris, he formed the rock band Aphrodite’s Child in 1968 with Demis Roussos and other Greek exiles. The group was happy with how their music was received in some European countries, especially with the single “Downpour and Tear.”
After that group broke up, he turned down an offer to replace Rick Wakeman in the rock band Yes. Instead, he decided to focus on performance work and film scores. Still, when he moved to London in 1975, he began working with Yes singer Jon Anderson. Together, they released four albums as “Jon and Vangelis” between 1980 and 1991, one of which reached the top five in Britain.
As he became more and more alone, he didn’t go to many meetings and preferred studio work to get more attention and move up. But in an interview in the 1980s, he said, “Some people say that a synthesizer is a machine, not a sound. Everything goes as it should. The first instrument made was a machine that made a sound. It might have been a woodwind or atom. Acoustic instruments, like a guitar, are great, but they don’t have a lot of sound options and always sound the same. It lets us move on from what we already know. You can start with a signal and grow a whole range of sounds that sound very different from each other. It’s hard to believe.”
Before Vangelis’ rise to fame, there had been electronic music scores, but the huge success of “Chariots of Fire” and the creative results of “Edge Runner” and other scores helped make sure that synth-based organization would have a future in film and TV. After a short time, all-electronic scores became common (“Miami Vice” in 1984, “Witness” in 1985, and so on), and authors embraced this new way of making music.
Vangelis made music for the Greek theatre (“Elektra” in 1983 and “Medea” in 1992, both with Irene Papas), for ballet performances in London (“Modern Prometheus” in 1985 and “Magnificence and the Beast” in 1986), and for stories by Jacques Cousteau (“Rediscover the World” in 1992).
During the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, the anxious artist went from making solo albums to making music for nature movies and video games. NASA used his choral group “Mythodea” for its 2001 Mars Odyssey mission, and he wrote special music for the European Space Agency’s 2014 mission to Comet 67P.
In 2018, he made music for the funeral of physicist Stephen Hawking. The NASA Juno space test inspired his last studio album, “Juno to Jupiter,” which came out in 2021. Two of his later independent albums, “Maritime” in 1996 and “Rosetta” in 2016, won the Grammy for Best New Age Album.
Things about his own life continue to puzzle him. Some reports say that he was married twice but didn’t have any kids.
The Greek head of state Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Vangelis was “a pioneer of electronic sound,” which shows how well-known he is in his home country.