Vangelis, best known for Chariots of Fire, dies at 79

Vangelis was a Greek film composer and synthesizer who won an Academy Award for Best Original Score for the high-pitched music of the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, about two British runners at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris , who died in Paris on Tuesday. He is 79 years old.

Frequent collaborator Lefteris Zermas said the cause was heart failure.

Self-taught musician Vangelis (pronounced vang-GHELL-iss), formerly known as Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, recorded solo albums and composed music for TV and film, including Blade Runner (1982), Missing (1982) and “1492: Conquering Paradise” (1992). But he is still best known for scoring Chariots of Fire.

The most familiar part of the score — modern electronic music composed for a period movie — is heard in the opening credits: a mix of acoustic piano and synthesizers that provide lush greenery for about two dozen young people running in slow motion , pulsing accompaniment on a nearly deserted beach, mud splashing on their white shirts and shorts, pain and excitement creased across their faces.

Vangelis’ music was as popular as the film itself, which was directed by Hudson Hudson and won four Oscars, including best picture.

The opening track, also known as “Cart Fire,” was released as a single and stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 28 weeks, including a week at number one. The soundtrack album stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for 30 weeks and remained at No. 1 for four weeks.

Vangelis said that when he watched the film as a partial cut, he immediately thought of the soundtrack.

“I try to put myself in the situation and feel it,” he told the Washington Post 1981. “I was a runner at the time, or on the field, or alone in the locker room…and then I created…I think that moment was fruitful and honest.”

He was working on a Yamaha CS-80 synth in his London studio at the time.

“This is the most important synth of my career and the best analog synth design ever,” he told Progan alternative music site, added in 2016, “It’s the only synth I can describe as a real instrument.”

For Blade Runner, the sci-fi noir set in futuristic Los Angeles, Vangelis created a soundtrack to match director Ridley Scott’s dystopian vision. He enhanced the CS-80 synth with an electric piano and a second synth that simulates strings, which produced the horn and bass sounds.

“What interests me most about this film is the atmosphere and general feel, not the distinct themes,” He said on the fan site Nemo Studios, named after the studio he built and worked in London for many years. “The visual atmosphere of the film is unique and I did everything I could to enhance it.”

The Blade Runner soundtrack wasn’t released until 1994, but it was well received. Allmusic’s Zach Johnson writes “Listeners can almost hear the indifferent wind blowing through the neon and metallic landscape of Los Angeles in 2019.”

Vangelis was born on March 29, 1943 in Agria, Greece, and grew up in Athens. He started playing the piano at the age of 4 and made his first public performance two years later. He didn’t have much training and never learned to read music.

“The music went through me,” he told The Associated Press in 1982. “It’s not mine.”

In the 1960s he played the organ with the Greek rock group Forminx. After a military coup in 1967, he left Greece for Paris.

Vangelis is the founder of Aphrodite’s Child, a progressive rock band that hit singles in Europe and had some success on FM radio in the United States. The band released several albums, including “666,” which was inspired by “Apocalypse.” After the separation of Aphrodite’s children, he moved to London in 1974.

In the 1970s, he started composing music for television shows such as the French documentary series “L’Apocalypse des Animaux” (1973), and started producing solo albums and film projects.Mr Scott used music from his album “China” in his memorable 1979 “Sharing Fantasy” Chanel No. 5 ad.

He also developed a friendly relationship with Jon Anderson, frontman of British progressive rock band Yes. When leaving the band, Vangelis was offered to replace keyboardist Rick Wakeman, but he declined the offer. He and Mr. Anderson then collaborated as Jon and Vangelis on four albums between 1980 and 1991, including “Mr. Cairo’s Friends”.

Vangelis’ music was also heard in scientist Carl Sagan’s 1980 TV series Cosmos.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Among Vangelis’ films after Chariots of Fire were “Antarctica” (1983), a Japanese film about a scientist’s expedition; “The Bounty” (1984), with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson Collaboration; Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” (2004), about a Macedonian king; and “El Greco” (2007), a Greek film about the artist.

He also composed music for such spectacles as the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup. In 2001 he recorded a choral symphony, “myth,” He adapted an earlier work, The Temple of Zeus in Athens, in honor of NASA’s Odyssey mission to Mars.

In a 2001 interview with NASA’s website, Wangelis said, “I formed the name of myth from the words myth and ode.” I feel it has something in common or common with NASA’s current exploration of Earth path of. No matter what we use as a key—music, mythology, science, mathematics, astronomy—we are trying to decipher the mysteries of creation and find our deepest roots. “

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