Greek composer Vangelis, pioneer of electronic music, is dead

Greek composer Vangelis, pioneer of electronic music, is dead

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The Greek composer Vangelis, who notably signed the music for “Chariots of Fire” and the anthem for the 2022 Football World Cup, has died at the age of 79.

Considered one of the pioneers of electronic music, the Greek composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, known as Vangelis, died at the age of 79.


Vangelis died Tuesday, May 17, according to the Athens News Agency, citing a statement from his lawyers, without specifying the causes of his death. This information was confirmed by the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us,” the Prime Minister tweeted. “The music world has lost (artist) international Vangelis,” his tweet added.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis also pointed out that Vangelis’ middle name was Ulysses. “For us Greeks this means that he began his great journey on the chariots of fire. From there he will always send us his notes,” he wrote.

“It’s a shock” and “a great loss for the world of music in general, film music and for the history of electronic music of which he was one of the pioneers”, said Thursday evening to AFP the French composer Jean-Michel Jarre.


According to several Greek media, Vangelis died of Covid-19 in France, where he shared his time with London and Athens.

An Oscar-winning composer

This autodidact had found his inspiration in space exploration, nature, futuristic architecture, the New Testament and the student movement of May 1968.


He had acquired international fame with the soundtracks of the films “Chariots of Fire” (Oscar for best music in 1981), “Blade Runner” or “1492: Christopher Columbus”.

Among the dozen soundtracks he has composed are those for the Costa-Gavras film “Missing”, Roman Polanski’s “Bile Moons” and Oliver Stone’s “Alexander”.


He also wrote music for theater and ballet, as well as the 2002 FIFA World Cup anthem.

Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou was born in 1943 in the village of Agria near Volos (center). A child prodigy, he gave his first piano concert at the age of 6, without having really taken any lessons.

“I never studied music,” he told the Greek magazine Periodiko in 1988, also deploring the growing “exploitation” imposed by the studios and the media. “You can sell a million records and feel like a failure. Or you can sell nothing at all and feel very happy,” he said.

After studying painting at the School of Fine Arts in Athens, Vangelis joined the Greek rock band the “Forminx” in the 1960s. Their success was cut short by the military junta in 1967, which put a restriction on freedom of expression.

Trying to reach the UK, he found himself stranded in Paris during the student movement of May 1968, and together with two other Greek exiles, Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras, he formed a progressive rock band “Aphrodite’s Child”. The group sold millions of records with hits such as “Rain and Tears” before disbanding in 1972.

Relocated to London in 1974, Vangelis created Nemo studios, “a sound laboratory”, producer of most of his albums.

Between Paris, London and Athens

“Success is sweet and treacherous,” the lion-maned composer confessed to the Observer in 2012. “Instead of being able to move on freely and do what you really want, you find yourself stuck and having to repeat yourself,” he also added.

In 2019 in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the musician claimed to see parallels with the dystopia described in the film “Blade Runner” by Ridley Scott. “When I saw the images, I understood that this was the future. Not a bright future, of course. But this is where we are going,” he said.

Vangelis, who had a planet renamed after him in 1995, had a fascination with space. “Every planet sings,” he told this newspaper in 2019.

In 1980 he participated in the music of the scientific documentary Cosmos, awarded the Carla Sagan prize.

He wrote music for NASA’s Mars Odyssey in 2001 and the Juno Jupiter missions in 2011, and was inspired in a Grammy-nominated album by the Rosetta spacecraft mission in 2016.

In 2018, he composed a track for Stephen Hawking’s funeral which mentioned the famous professor’s last words.

In recent years, he has divided his time between Paris, London and Athens, remaining discreet about his private life.

With Reuters and AFP

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