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Who Was Vangelis? All We Know about the Award-Winning Composer, His Life, and Legacy

Busayo Ogunjimi
May 20, 2022
02:15 P.M.
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Vangelis was a talented composer who won many awards while he lived and influenced many of the musicians we know now; he died at age 79, and here is everything we know about his life and death.


Vangelis was a composer who originated from Greece. He was a self-taught Oscar-winning composer who steered many synthesizers into the waters of theater with cosmic scores for "Chariots of Fire" and "Blade Runner," and he passed away on May 17.

According to Washington Post, he breathed his last at a hospital in Paris and was 79 years old. His assistant, Lefteris Zermas, confirmed his demise; however, there was no specification on what caused it.

Greek musician and composer, Vangelis Papathanassiou, (Vangelis) at the French Culture Ministry after receiving a decoration, October 20, 1992 | Source: Getty Images



As a composer, Vangelis enjoyed global success. However, not many know that he never formally learned to read or write music. He started to learn the piano at a very young age, and even though he was enrolled in a music school, reading music was not something he formally picked up.

As a teenager, he joined a band named "Formynx," however, he left because he had to leave Greece behind in 1968 to avoid a coup attempt. After that, Vangelis settled down in Paris and formed a progressive rock band, "Aphrodite's Child," with some other greek expatriates.

Picture of Greek composer of electronic music, Vangelis, 28th January 1976 | Source: Getty Images


He branched off in the 1970s to make music for films and documentaries. His works for the French filmmaker Frederic Rossif were famous, and one of them, titled "Opera Sauvage," became a massive success in the US and paved the way to what would become the composer's greatest triumph: The score for "Chariots of Fire."

According to Rolling Stone, the musical piece topped Billboard 200 for about 120 days. Vangelis, who reportedly played all the instruments on the soundtrack by himself, was awarded the Best Original Score by the Academy Awards.

In 1982, Vangelis struck again with an electric soundscape he created for Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner," and it hit the mark by all accounts, effortlessly channeling the director's bleak dystopia. It is now considered one of the greatest works in the electric music genre.


Greek composer and keyboard player Vangelis poses at his apartment in Paris, 9th June 1991 | Source: Getty Images

Vangelis's success can be tied to his synthesizer, which he put together himself after deciding that the other synthesizers that were circulating were not properly designed. The one he made for himself allowed him to perform his music like a full orchestra in real-time.


Vangelis' music has influenced a new crop of composers, including Mac Quayle, who says that the Greek composer showed precisely how good electronics could be, and according to the Emmy winner, Vangelis was somehow able to channel the real feel of an orchestra with his synthesizer.

Picture of Vangelis at Polydor Records, London, UK on 7 December 1981 | Source: Getty Images


Throughout his career, Vangelis created music for Carl Sagan's "Cosmos," but his skills did not just apply to cinema; he has also made great scores for international events like the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan.


According to the Athens News Agency, Vangelis, born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, passed away on Wednesday, May 18. His lawyers' office has confirmed this; however, like the late composer's assistant, no cause of death has been publicized.

Producer Hugh Hudson (L) and original Chariots of Fire comoposer Vangelis attend an after party celebrating the press night performance of 'Chariots Of Fire' at Floridita on July 3, 2012 in London, England | Source: Getty Images

Greek media has alleged that Vangelis passed away in a French hospital while receiving treatment for Covid-19 bringing an end to the talented man's five decades-long career.