Music composer ‘Vangelis’ Papathanasiou dies aged 79

Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in 1943, Vangelis died in a hospital in France where he was being treated for COVID-19.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that the great Greek Vangelis Papathanassiou passed away late on the night of Tuesday, May 17,” his lawyer announced.

The news was shared by many including Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who tweeted: “Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us. The world of music has lost the international Vangelis.”

He was internationally known as Vangelis and revered for his ground-breaking music compositions but was also a writer and producer.

Vangelis was mostly famous for his synthesizer work in film scores which took classical-style compositions into the future.

Born in Agria, Volos he grew up in Athens and studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts, He created his first band in 1963, called the Forminx experimenting with 1960s pop music and up-tempo rock’n’roll as well as ballads while performing Beatles covers.

After 1966, the band dissolved due to the Greek Junta and Vangelis began producing and composing music for others, beginning his career writing scores for Greek films.

In 1968, he moved to Paris for more freedom of expression where he formed the prog rock quartet Aphrodite’s Child with Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras who had also fled Greece.

Papathanasiou won an Oscar for his 1981 score for the film Chariots of Fire, composing and performing the most popular piano motif which reached No 1 in the US music charts.

His score for the iconic science fiction film Blade Runner was equally celebrated for its dystopian iteration of a futuristic version of Los Angeles, where robots and humans dance to the sounds of ambience, malevolent synth passages and saxophones.

“It has turned out to be a very prophetic film – we’re living in a kind of Blade Runner world now,” he said in 2005.

Some of his most famous soundtracks include Costa-Gavras’ “Missing”, “Antarctica”, “The Bounty”, “1492: Conquest of Paradise”, Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon” and the Oliver Stone epic “Alexander”.

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

Vangelis, who always loved the mysteries of space had a planet named after him in 1995.

“Each planet sings,” he told the LA Times in 2019.

NASA also commemorated Vangelis, tweeting at the news of his death: “Ad astra, Vangelis.

The film composer contributed scores to explorations by our #JunoMission to Jupiter. Here, ride along with the @NASASolarSystem spacecraft around Jupiter and moon Ganymede, with sound up.”