It's a sad day for synthesizer and soundtrack fans today as renowned composer Vangelis, known for his signature synth-driven sound in the movie Chariots of Fire and the epic soundtrack to sci-fi classic Bladerunner, has passed away at the age of 79. His assistant, Lefteris Zermas, confirmed that Vangelis died on May 17 in a Paris hospital due to heart failure.
Vangelis, born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou in the Greek town of Agria, was a self-taught musician and a remarkable piano prodigy in his youth. He later moved to Paris and co-founded the popular prog-rock group, Aphrodite's Child. Which is pretty awesome and out there in its own right. After the band's split, Vangelis pursued a solo career and secured a record deal with RCA Records.
He went on to compose the iconic score for Chariots of Fire in 1981, creating tyhe template for uplifting theme music in the emerging era of synthesizers and samplers. The score's main theme was released as a single, and managed to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100, earning him an Academy Award for the Best Original Score. Following on from that came the cultural high point (and future Synthwave aesthetic) composing the soundtrack for the movie Blade Runner and Carl Sagan's PBS documentary series, Cosmos. Beyond film scores, Vangelis had a prolific solo career, consistently and almost relentlessly releasing new albums, with his last being Juno to Jupiter.
Although Vangelis was most associated with synthesizers, he also found them frustrating due to their design limitations. In a 2016 interview with NPR, he expressed his dissatisfaction with their logic, which differed from human logic. For his 2016 record, Rosetta, dedicated to the space probe of the same name, Vangelis ended up building his own synthesizer. Throughout his life, Vangelis maintained a profound interest in space, which greatly influenced his music's breadth and atmospheric quality. He believed that there was an inherent human desire to explore, whether that meant looking up at the sky or creating music in a studio. Becoming a musician was never a conscious decision for Vangelis; he once told NPR in 1977, "It's very difficult not to make music. It's as natural as eating or making love. Music is the same."
With the passing of Vangelis, the world bids farewell to a visionary composer whose music will continue to resonate, taking audiences on a timeless journey from the tracks of Chariots of Fire to the boundless expanses of outer space.