Vangelis, Oscar-Winning Composer for 'Chariots of Fire,' Dies at 79


Vangelis, the synthesizer pioneer who won an Oscar for "Chariots of Fire" and composed such other landmark film scores as "Blade Runner," died Tuesday, the Athens News Agency reported. He was 79.

He was Grammy-nominated three times in the new age album category and for record of the year for "Chariots of Fire." It was the music for that 1981 film "Chariots of Fire" that brought him worldwide fame. Producer David Puttnam made the unorthodox choice for the period sports drama after hearing his music for the French nature documentary "Opera Sauvage" and the studio album "China."

As he often did, Vangelis performed all of the instruments, including synthesizer, piano, drums and percussion, and his memorable theme not only enhanced the film but, as a soundtrack, reached no. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Born Evangelos Odessey Papathanassiou in Greece, he was enrolled by his parents into the Athens Music School at the age of 6 where he was soon performing concerts. He was a member of the progressive rock band Aphrodite's Child and enjoyed a long career in European pop music before the colors and textures of his 1970s solo albums brought him to the attention of film and TV producers. The use of a track from his "Heaven and Hell" as the theme for Carl Sagan's PBS series "Cosmos" brought his name and music into prominence in America.

He grew up in Athens and formed his first band, the Forminx, in 1963, playing pop music and Beatles covers, but began working on film scores and sessions a few years later. After relocating to Paris, In 1968 he formed the progressive-rock quartet Aphrodite's Child with a group of Greek expatriots, including Demis Roussos. The group enjoyed chart success in several European countries, particularly the single "Rain and Tear."

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