Greek musician and composer Vangelis died on May 17, exactly one month ago, at age 79. His passing has left an irrevocable void in electronic music of which he was a pioneer. The late musician was an innovator in the use of synthesizers and the art of conceptual albums, and was an all-around artist in every sense of the word.
From his decades-long career, Vangelis left behind a substantial body of work that includes everything from experimental rock, compositions for theater and space agencies, pop collaborations and symphonic works. Although he primarily used electronic instruments, his musical style was diverse – he created pieces described as a mixture of electronica, classical, ambient, jazz, progressive rock, avant-garde and world music.
Almost entirely self-taught, Vangelis never learned to notate music in the traditional sense but it hasn’t harmed his mastery a bit. He first was acclaimed for the progressive rock bands, the Forminx and Aphrodite’s Child, before setting out on his own prolific solo journey.
Launch Into Mainstream
The Greek musician experienced mainstream success as a soundtrack composer. His most influential and iconic film scores are the themes to “Chariots of Fire” and “Blade Runner.” They are the most widely known music pieces of his entire career to this day – some may not recognize Vangelis’ name (especially younger generations) but as soon as the soundtracks are mentioned, he is instantly recognizable.
Reserved, Yet Remarkable
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Vangelis never cared for capitalizing on his fame or achieving stardom – he believed that success and pure creativity are not compatible. He valued freedom and independence the most, wanted to remain out of the public eye, rarely gave interviews, and never shared details of his personal life. The composer stated that he was not interested in the music industry business and expressed indifference to the drug and alcohol-fused lifestyle of his band days.
Although a reserved person, Vangelis was a very approachable, kind man with a great sense of humor, according to many accounts. He enjoyed long gatherings with friends, took a special interest in Ancient Greek philosophy, the physics of music and sound, and was fascinated by space exploration.
He devoted his free time to playing electronic instruments and piano, as well as painting. The love for painting resulted in an exhibition of 70 paintings that was held in 2003 in Spain and then toured South Africa to the very end of 2004.
Accolades and Legacy
Vangelis remained a prolific musician and composer for the rest of his life, creating soundtracks for numerous movies and collaborating with NASA and the European Space Agency.
In 1982 he received the Oscar award for the Best Original Score for his “Chariots of Fire” soundtrack.
In 1989 the composer received the Max Steiner Award as a symbol of recognition for exceptional achievements in the art of film music.
6354 Vangelis, a micro-planet between Mars and Jupiter, was named in his honor in 1995 by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
In 2003 NASA conferred the Public Service Medal to Vangelis, the highest honor the space agency presents to individuals not involved with the government.
In 2008 Vangelis was given an honorary doctoral degree, making him a professor emeritus at the Faculty of Primary Education of National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The same year he also received the AHI Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award for his “exceptional artistic achievements” as a pioneer in electronic music and for his lifelong dedication to the promotion of Hellenism through the arts.
In 2013, as part of a series of six distinguished living personalities of the Greek Diaspora, Vangelis received the honor of appearing on the Greek 80 cent postage stamp.
In 2017 France made Vangelis a Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters, the highest French order of merit originally established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.
In 2018 the University of Thessaly in Volos, the hometown of Vangelis, awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in computer engineering.
10 Essential Vangelis Albums
The best way to commemorate Vangelis is to listen to the music he created. There is an almost inexhaustible quantity of works to choose from, so we’ve picked 10 key albums that showcase his extraordinary musicianship. The albums are given in chronological order.
You may not only listen but also create music based on his pieces – use LALAL.AI to split Vangelis’ compositions into various parts and incorporate them into your own songs, mixes, etc.
🟡 Aphrodite’s Child – 666 (1972)
🟡Vangelis – Albedo 0.39 (1976)
🟡 Iren Papas & Vangelis – Odes (1979)
🟡Vangelis – Chariots of Fire (1981)
🟡Jon & Vangelis – The Friends of Mister Cairo (1981)
🟡Vangelis – Soil Festivities (1984)
🟡Vangelis – Mask (1985)
🟡Vangelis – Blade Runner (1994)
🟡Vangelis – Rosetta (2016)