Vangelis, the Greek composer of 'Chariots of Fire,' dies at 79

Vangelis, a Greek electronic composer, who composed the memorable Academy Award-winning score to "Chariots of Fire" as well as music for scores for many other documentaries and TV shows, has passed away at the age of 79.

Vangelis, the Greek composer of 'Chariots of Fire,' dies at 79

Vangelis, a Greek electronic composer, who composed the memorable Academy Award-winning score to "Chariots of Fire" as well as music for scores for many other documentaries and TV shows, has passed away at the age of 79.

Kyriakos Mitchellsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister, and other officials of government offered their condolences on Thursday. Greek media reported Vangelis, who was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, died at a French hospital on Tuesday.

Mitsotakis tweeted "VangelisPapathanassiou has passed away" and called him an "electronic music trailblazer" whose "death is sad news for the whole world."

"Chariots Of Fire" opens with a group of young runners moving slowly across a sandy beach in Scotland. Then, a slow, beat-backed song rises to a powerful declamation. It is one of the most well-known musical themes in cinema, and the many spoofs that it has been sung has only confirmed its popularity in popular culture.

Vangelis was made famous by the 1981 British film, but his first encounter with success came in the 1960s with his first Greek pop group.

He became a quasi-classical one-man orchestra using an extensive array of electronic equipment to create his immensely popular and highly regarded undulating sounds. He was a private and humorous man, tall with a short beard and shoulder-length hair. Although he was fascinated by space exploration, he wrote music for celestial bodies. However, despite his admiration, he said that achieving stardom was not something aspired to.

His name will always be associated with a micro-planet that spins somewhere between Mars, Jupiter and Saturn -- 6354 Vangelis.

Vangelis was born March 29, 1943, near Volos, central Greece. He began playing the piano when he was 4, but he didn't receive any formal training.

He said that composition and orchestration are taught in music schools. However, there are certain things you cannot teach." In a 1982 interview, he stated that "Orchestration is not something they can teach." You can't teach creativity."

Vangelis, three of his friends and Forminx formed in Athens at 20. The band did well in Greece. He wrote music for many Greek films, and was later a founding member of Aphrodite's Child with Demis Roussos, another later-to be internationally-recognized Greek musician. The progressive rock band was based in Paris and produced many hits in Europe. Their final album, "666", was released in 1972. It is still highly acclaimed.

Vangelis went solo and also ended Aphrodite's Child. He moved to London in 1974 and built his studio. Jon Anderson, the frontman for Yes, was also a collaborator. They recorded several hits together.

His breakthrough was with "Chariots of Fire," which told the story of two British athletes competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics. Vangelis' score was nominated for one of the four Academy Awards, which included best picture. This iconic piece is one the most difficult-to-forget movie songs worldwide. It has also been used as the musical background for endless slow-motion parodies.

Vangelis wrote music scores later for Ridley Scott's films "Blade Runner" (1982), and "1492 Conquest of Paradise (1992), as also for "Missing", (1982), and "Antarctica", (1983), among other things.

He declined many other offers for film music scores and stated in an interview that "half of the films I see don’t need music." It sounds like something that has been stuffed in."

Vangelis was suspicious of the way record companies managed commercial success. He said that success can lead to "stuckness" and make it difficult to repeat your past successes.

His passion for science, including sound physics and space exploration, led to compositions that were linked with NASA and the European Space Agency. Vangelis created a music tribute to Stephen Hawking, a British theoretical physicist, that was broadcast by the ESA into space.

Vangelis created his symphonic swells by playing solo on a bank synthesizers and flipping switches while his feet darted between the volume pedals.

He once stated, "I work as an athlete."

He avoided the excesses of the music industry lifestyle, stating that he had never taken drugs.

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