Vangelis, a prolific musician and revolutionary film soundtrack composer known for both piano and synthesizer-heavy scores in films like Chariots Of Fire and Bladerunner, has died at the age of 79. He passed away due to heart failure in Paris, France on May 17, according to his representatives.


Throughout his nearly 60-year career, Vangelis worked in so many facets of the music industry. He played and wrote original material for bands, duos and his solo act, he produced and wrote for other artists, and he made some enduring film soundtracks, though he once said in a 1985 interview that he wished to avoid being just a “factory of film music.”

Vangelis was born Evángelios Odysséas Papathanassíou, on March 29, 1943, in the Greek town of Agria. He was raised in Athens and was interested in music by the early age of four. He said once that he felt fortunate to not have had extensive music lessons or other formal education because teaching himself allowed him to develop his creativity independently.

As he developed an eclectic music taste that included inspirations from traditional Greek music plus influences from jazz and rock, Vangelis soon began forming bands for fun in school. His first group that found success in Europe was the band The Forminx, which was active from 1963 to 1966. His next group was Aphrodite’s Child, which he formed after moving to Paris from Greece, and was similarly short-lived but considered an extremely influential cult progressive rock band from the time.

Vangelis then came into his own as a solo recording artist, releasing several electronic albums through the ’70s which raised his profile even more. Several of the songs produced in this period were used for the acclaimed 1980 Carl Sagan series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. His biggest breakthrough success would then come a year later with the Chariots Of Fire score. Vangelis’ heavy use of electronic synthesizers was a novel approach to a period piece score, and the soundtrack album even became No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for four weeks after its release.

He continued working and never seemed willing to stay in one corner of the business, composing more film scores, breaking into making operas and soundtracks for theaters, and forming even more groups. He recorded over 50 albums in his lifetime and was actively creating until his death, with his most recent album Juno to Jupiter coming out in September of last year.

Several of Vangelis’ projects in the later years of his life revolved around his deep fascination for space exploration and were even supported by NASA. His choral symphony Mythodea was played as the theme of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission, and his recent release Juno To Jupiter was inspired by the NASA space probe Juno which was launched in 2011.

He was notoriously private about his personal life and rarely gave interviews, but people who met him described him as “inordinately approachable,” despite his lofty stature in the music industry. He also was an active painter, frequently hosted large gatherings with friends, and was an amateur student of the physics behind music and sound.

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