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Thursday, May 19th, 2022  

Oscar-Winning Composer Vangelis Dies at 79

Vangelis Scored the Films Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner, Among Many Others

May 19, 2022
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Vangelis, composer of films such as Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner, passed away on May 17 at the age of 79. A cause of death was not reported, but the Greek newspaper OT reported that he was being treated for COVID-19 at the hospital in France where he passed away.

Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in Greece, Vangelis was a member of a band called the Forminx in his formative years. His first film scores were created in the early 1960s for several Greek films. He then moved to London in 1967, forming the band Aphrodite’s Child the following year. In 1975, he secured a recording contract with RCA and released his breakout solo record, Heaven and Hell. His success as a solo artist led to the formation of a duo with Jon Anderson of Yes, where they released several studio albums throughout the 1980s.

Astronomer Carl Sagan used some of Vangelis’ music for his 1980 TV series, Cosmos: A Personal Journey. The popular show afforded Vangelis more public exposure to work. His breakthrough would come one year later, after he scored the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. Released to acclaim, his work earned him an Academy Award for Best Original Music Score. The film’s opening theme, “Titles,” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and the official soundtrack was number one on the Billboard 200 for four weeks, selling over a million copies.

Vangelis continued his success as a film composer when he scored Ridley Scott’s much-beloved 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner. After that, he scored several other films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, such as Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon and another film by Scott, 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Vangelis continued to release solo work into the 2000’s. His final studio album, 2021’s Juno to Jupiter, was inspired by NASA’s Jupiter exploration mission and features vocals by opera singer Angela Gheorghiu.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote a statement on Twitter eulogizing the artist: “Vangelis Papathanassíou is no longer with us. For the whole world, the sad news states that the world music firm has lost the international Vangelis. The protagonist 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 Roads of Fire. From there he will always send us his notes.”

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