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20 May 2022

Vangelis, Groundbreaking Composer, Dies Aged 79

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Vangelis, the Greek composer who provided much-loved music for Blade Runner and Chariots Of Fire, among many other films, has died at the age of 79. The law firm representing the composer said he died late on Tuesday, without giving a cause of death.

Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou on 29 March 1943, Vangelis was mostly a self-taught musician. He found early success in Greek rock bands including The Forminx and Aphrodite’s Child. With the latter band he released three albums – End Of The World (1968), It’s Five O’Clock (1969) and their prog-psych masterpiece, 666 (1972). By the time 666 was released, the band had split, still it sold over 2 million copies. One of his earliest film scores, written while he was still in Aphrodite’s Child, was for a French nature documentary called L’Apocalypse des animaux.

In 1973, Vangelis began his solo career with his debut album Fais que ton rêve soit plus long que la nuit (Make Your Dream Last Longer Than the Night), a sound collage inspired by the student riots of 1968 in France. The following year saw another left-turn with the release of the percussion-heavy Earth.

During the 70s, he was widely rumoured to join the prog-rock band Yes, following the departure of keyboardist Rick Wakeman. After rehearsing with them for months, Vangelis declined to join the group. He and Yes lead vocalist Jon Anderson reunited in the 80s and went on to release several albums together as Jon & Vangelis.

From the mid-70s, Vangelis stepped up his soundtrack work with a string of commissions that led to his most celebrated work – his soundtrack to the 1981 film, Chariots Of Fire, for which he won an Academy Award. His use of synthesisers to score a period film was hugely innovative and unorthodox. The opening instrumental title piece, Titles, was released as a single and reached No 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week after a five-month climb. The soundtrack album was No 1 on the Billboard 200 for four weeks and sold one million copies in the United States.

His next major success was with scoring Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner. Vangelis’ score was considered hugely important in bringing Scott’s dystopian vision of the future to life. The score was nominated for a BAFTA and Golden Globe award and is considered one of the cornerstones of electronic music.

Vangelis released his final studio album, Juno To Jupiter, in September 2021. The record was inspired by the mission of NASA’s Juno spacecraft and featured soprano Angela Gheorghiu.

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