The Greek composer Vangelis Papathanassiou has died at the age of 79 in a Paris hospital, where he was being treated for COVID-19, as announced by his representative and reported by the EFE agency. The death took place, as reported by the Greek agency Athens News Agency, on the afternoon of last Tuesday.
Vangelis, a pioneering author of electronic and ambient music, stood out for composing the soundtracks for the films Chariots of Fire (winner of an Oscar in 1981), Blade Runner (1982) or Disappeared, by his compatriot Costa-Gavras (1982 ). His characteristic surround sound, the fruit of the use of analog synthesizers in the 1970s, was nurtured by the roots of Greek folk music and the choral music of the Orthodox religion.
He was one of the first Greeks to own a synthesizer, due to the wealthy position of his family. In 1966 Vangelis composed his first soundtrack for the comedy 5,000 Lies, by director Giorgos Konstadinou. At the age of 25 he went into exile in Paris, after the 1967 coup that established a military junta in Greece, the Dictatorship of the Colonels. In his youth he formed the rock group Aphrodite's Child together with his cousin Demi Roussos and they released 666 at the end of the 60s, one of the most influential albums of the decade and praised by Salvador Dalí himself.
Vangelis jumped from rock to progressive rock, which was at the forefront of popular music in the 1970s and contributed to a non-dance electronic music scene that he shared with other authors such as Jean-Michel Jarre or Mike Oldfield. The musician began to be linked to the world of science fiction due to the characteristic "spatial" sound that he developed in some albums such as Albedo 0.39, but also due to his participation in Blade Runner, in the Cosmos series and in projects with NASA or the Agency European Space.
In the mid-1970s he developed many soundtracks and focused on electronics. In 1975, the Greek settled in London and opened a studio called Laboratory. But the impulse came with the soundtrack of Chariots of Fire (1982), with which he beat John Williams at the Oscars that year for Raiders of the Lost Ark. The first scene, where the producers took the risk of using electronic music in a story set in the 1920s, is what has made Vangelis one of the mythical composers in the history of cinema.
In order not to be pigeonholed in the world of soundtracks, the Greek refused to commercially publish his film scores. Among the unpublished compositions are the films Missing, by Costa Gavras, or Mutiny on board, by Roger Donaldson.
In his last years, Vangelis alternated between commercial works such as the 2002 World Cup anthem, the 2004 Athens Olympics and the soundtracks of 1492: the Conquest of Paradise (1992), Alexander the Great (2004), by Oliver Stone, or El Greco (2007), starring Juan Diego Botto, with other risky personal projects. Among the latter, The City and Oceanic stand out.