Vangelis, the acclaimed Greek composer who scored films including Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner, has died at the age of 79.
According to the Guardian, Vangelis passed away in a French hospital, where he was reportedly being treated for complications related to COVID-19.
Vangelis, who was born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in Agria, a coastal town in Magnesia, Thessaly, Greece, began composing music at the age of four. But when his parents enrolled him for music lessons, he quickly flunked out, preferring instead to develop his own techniques. In 1963 at the age of 20, Vangelis formed his first rock band with his childhood friends, and in 1966 he began scoring Greek films.
Two years later he achieved his first international hit, “Rain and Tears,” as part of the prog rock group Aphrodite’s Child. Written around motifs from Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major,” the song hit No. 1 in France and Belgium and reached the Top 30 in the UK and Germany.
Aphrodite’s Child broke up in 1972, with Vangelis calling commercial pop music “very boring.” He turned down an invitation to play keyboards in Yes, moved to London, and dropped two solo LPs, Heaven and Hell (1975), which was used to soundtrack Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and Albedo 0.39 (1976).
Vangelis’ career entered a new phase in 1981 with the release of the Olympic drama Chariots of Fire, which took home four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Original Score. He followed that with the futuristic dystopia of Blade Runner (1982), which earned nominations for its score at the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards.
My music does not try to evoke emotions like joy, love, or pain from the audience,” Vangelis said later. “It just goes with the image, because I work in the moment.”
In the years that followed, Vangelis scored the Japanese drama Antartica and released several solo albums. He re-teamed with Blade Runner director Ridley Scott for 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and in 2004, he soundtracked Alexander for Oliver Stone. Perhaps because of the enduring appeal of Chariots of Fire, he also became a favored composer for sporting events, scoring events including the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Check out a selection of his works below.