The Greek composer Vangelis Papathanasiou, nicknamed Vangelis, author of the music of 1492: Christopher Columbus, blade runner, The chariots of fire and the anthem of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has died at the age of 79, announced on Twitter (in Greek) Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us”tweeted the Prime Minister. “The music world has lost [l’artiste] International Vangelis”adds his tweet.

A pioneer of electronic music, this autodidact had found his inspiration in space exploration, nature, futuristic architecture, the New Testament and the student movement of May 1968. This self-taught keyboard genius always liked to multiply experiences and was transitioned with ease from psychedelic rock and synth to ethnic music and jazz.

Among the dozen soundtracks he composed are also those of the film by Costa-Gavras missingof gall moons by Roman Polanski andalexander by Oliver Stone. His soundtrack for chariots of fire, by Hugh Hudson, was Oscar-winning against the music of John Williams made for the first Indiana Jones film in 1982. At the top of the American charts, its composition was also a hit in the United Kingdom and was used for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

He also wrote music for theater and ballet, as well as the 2002 FIFA World Cup anthem. His mastery and stormy inspiration in the creation of sounds, totally original, created a global audience“, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said, “he was ecumenical“.

Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou was born in 1943 in the village of Agria near Volos (center). A child prodigy, he gave his first piano concert at the age of 6, without having really taken any lessons. “I never studied music”he told the Greek magazine Periodiko in 1988, also lamenting “exploitation” increasing imposed by the studios and the media. “You can sell a million records and feel like a failure. Or you can sell nothing at all and feel very happy”he had said.

After studying painting at the School of Fine Arts in Athens, Vangelis joined the Greek rock band the “Forminx” in the 1960s. Their success was cut short by the military junta in 1967, which put a restriction on freedom of expression. Trying to reach the UK, he found himself stranded in Paris during the student movement of May 1968, and together with two other Greek exiles, Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras, he formed a progressive rock band “Aphrodite’s Child”.

The group has sold millions of records with hits such as Rain and Tears before disbanding in 1972. Relocated to London in 1974, Vangelis established Nemo Studios, “a sound laboratory”producer of most of his albums.

“Success is sweet and treacherous”confessed the composer with the lion’s mane to theObserve in 2012. “Instead of being able to move freely and do what you really want, you find yourself stuck and having to repeat yourself”, he also added. In 2019 in an interview with Los Angeles Timesthe musician claimed to see parallels with the dystopia depicted in the film blade runner by Ridley Scott. “When I saw the images, I understood that this was the future. Not a bright future, of course. But this is where we are going”did he declare.

Vangelis, who had a planet renamed after him in 1995, had a fascination with space. “Every planet sings“, he had declared to this newspaper in 2019. In 1980 he participated in the music of the scientific documentary Cosmos, awarded the Carla Sagan Prize. He wrote music for NASA’s Mars Odyssey in 2001 and the Juno Jupiter missions in 2011, and was inspired in a Grammy-nominated album by the Rosetta spacecraft mission in 2016.

In 2018, he composed a track for Stephen Hawking’s funeral which mentioned the famous professor’s last words. Vangelis has received the Max Steiner Film Score Award, the Legion of Honor in France, the NASA Public Service Medal, and Greece’s highest honour, the Order of the Phoenix.
During the last years of his life, Vangelis divided his time between Paris, London and Athens, always remaining discreet about his private life.

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