Chariots of Fire legend dies at 79

Vangelis became an instant film score legend for his iconic soundtracks and was hailed as “a genius” at composition.

Vangelis, the legendary Greek composer behind the unforgettable score of Chariots of Fire, has died aged 79.

Vangelis, born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, died Tuesday May 17 in a French hospital.

greek newspaper TO reports he was being treated for Covid.

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His “private practice” announced the news of his Elsewhere fan pageand Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his condolences for the loss of the “electronic sound pioneer”.

“Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us,” Mr Mitsotakis tweeted, saying it was “sad news for the whole world”.

Vangelis is perhaps best known for the emphatic opening credits of the 1981 film Chariots of fire.

The bloated air, which plays over the slow-motion scene of a group of men running on a dreary beach in Scotland, has become the most recognizable – and perhaps the most parodied – theme in cinema.

Tanksof fire topped the Billboard 200 for four weeks, was nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year, and earned Vangelis—who played all the instruments on the soundtrack—an Oscar for Best Musical Score.

Although chariots of fire is arguably his most famous work, Vangelis’ immersive compositional style created the dark urban soundscape of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade runner.

He worked with Scott again – and earned an Oscar nomination – for 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992). His other credits include Faded away (1982), Antarctic (1983), by Roman Polanski bitter moon (1992) and Oliver Stone alexander (2004).

Vangelis has also created music for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2021 FIFA World Cup in Japan.

In an interview with Replay Magazine in 1993Vangelis said he would compose a score like a traveling musician – watching a movie and playing his synthesizer “live”.

“When I compose, I play the music at the same time, so everything is live; nothing is pre-programmed,” he said.

“I don’t do any demos. “Improvise” isn’t quite the word, but I use the first idea and impression that comes to mind.

“It’s a lot faster, there’s no agony, and if I make a mistake, I’m the only one to blame. The most important thing is to capture the spirit of the film.

Born in 1943 in Agria in central Greece, Vangelis started playing the piano at age four but never formally learned to read or write music – Associated Press Reports that he once said that you can teach orchestration and composition but “you can’t teach creation”.

This makes his long career all the more impressive.

In addition to his film work, Vangelis was recognized as a progressive pop and rock musician in the 60s and 70s. In his early twenties he formed the Greek pop group Formynx, then, after fleeing a coup and the military junta, forms the band Aphrodite’s Child in 1970s Paris alongside other Greek expatriates.

He had a fascination with science, physics and space exploration, and wrote music for NASA and European Space Agency projects; which earned him the NASA Public Service Medal in 2003.

In 2018 Vangelis composed a tribute to the late British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking which was broadcast in space.

For all that is known about his career and lineup, very little is known about his personal life – Vangelis is said to have bought a house at the foot of the Acropolis which was nearly demolished in 2007 because the government said that it spoiled the view from a new museum.

His last Decca label simply called him “a genius”.

“Vangelis created music of extraordinary originality and power, and provided the soundtrack to so many of our lives,” he said.

“His music will live forever.”

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