Vangelis is a Greek pianist, composer and arranger who received an Oscar for his score in the blockbuster movie Chariots of Fire during the 80 music era. The score’s unorthodox orchestration is one of the most memorable moments in the 80s oldies music scene. His talent encompasses many genres that include new age, progressive, ambient, jazz, classical and orchestral music. Vangelis also composed music for other films such as Blade Runner, Antartica, Alexander, and many others. Although in the States he is a one hit wonder, Vangelis also recorded hit albums and singles anywhere else in the world. More on Vangelis here in this article!
Early life and successful European career
Award-winning Greek composer and musician Vangelis was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou in Agria, Greece on March 29, 1943, the time with Axis Italy occupied much of the Greek mainland.
Vangelis’ musical talents manifested very early in his life, but he refused to be formally trained. Instead, he preferred to teach himself.
During his high school days he formed a local band named Formynx, which went on to become one of the most popular acts in Greece. Despite the superstar status he and his band had achieved, they disbanded in 1966. Vangelis relocated to Paris, France where he founded the progressive rock band Aphrodite’s Child; their first single, entitled “Ran and Tears,” became a big hit in Europe, selling over 20 million copies. While still in the band, Vangelis had already started doing other musical projects.
Career as a composer and film scorer
After Aphrodite’s Child dissolved in 1972, Vangelis started to do composing scores. His first was a collaboration with French filmmaker Frederic to write the film scores for the films La Fete Sauvage and L’Apocalypse des Animaux.
He also started his solo career in 1973 with the release of his first official LP Earth, which is actually his project where he worked with several musicians. Around the same time, he was rumored to become a member of the English progressive rock band Yes. Although Vangelis did some rehearsals in the band, he never officially joined them. However, he formed a friendship with the band’s singer Jon Anderson who would also be Vangelis’ frequent musical partner. The two men formed Jon & Vangelis, and together they scored hits in the UK including “I Hear You Now” in 1980 and “I’ll Find My Way Home” in 1981.
In 1981 Vangelis wrote the score for the British film Chariots of Fire where he used unorthodox orchestra by the heavy use of synths instead of the traditional instruments. Vangelis won the Oscar for the film’s original film score, while the film also won Best Picture and Best Screenplay.
Vangelis’ Oscar win was clearly his commercial and international breakthrough. The score had also gone to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also on the Billboard adult contemporary singles chart.
Also in 1982 Vangelis began his musical partnership with director Ridley Scott. He worked on the score for Ridley’s science fiction film Blade Runner, and then on Conquest of Paradise.
Vangelis later composed music for several projects, including several Jacques Cousteau sea documentaries. His own solo career was also blossoming. He issued many records such as The Mask (1985), Antartica (1989) and The City (1990), all of which became widely acclaimed.
He also worked with director Oliver Stone and worked on the film score to Stone’s film Alexander (2004). Vangelis also scored for the Greek bioepic film El Greco (2007).
In 2012 Vangelis re-tooled and recorded new pieces for the stage adaptation of the film Chariots of Fire.