Vangelis Papathanasiou (1943-2022) | A monument has been demolished

He was not a Greek god, but his music was divine. Vangelis Odysseas Papathanassiou, better known as Vangelis, died overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday at the age of 79. According to reports in various Greek media, he was hospitalized in France due to COVID-19.

Updated May 19

Jean-Christophe Laurence

Jean-Christophe Laurence

A big loss for the music world.

A composer, keyboardist, pioneer of electronic music and a leading figure in film music of the last 50 years, Vangelis was especially honored with an Oscar for his film soundtrack. Fire carts in 1982, and Golden Globe nominations for music e blade runner in 1983 and 1492: Christopher Columbus in 1993.

Active until late, he started Juno on Jupiter in 2021, a work of sidereal character.

Less well known in Greece than the immense Mikis Theodorakis, Vangelis was nevertheless considered a national treasure because of his international influence for more than half a century.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also paid tribute to him on social media on Wednesday. “Vangelis Papathanasiou is no longer with us. The world of music is lost [l’artiste] Vangelis International “, said the politician on Twitter.

Mr. Mitsotakis also recalled that Vangelis’s middle name was Ulysses. “For us Greeks, this means that he started his great journey with the chariots of fire. From there, he will always send us his notes. »

Aphrodite’s son

Born in 1943 in Volon, Thessaly, this self-taught musician began his career in Greece in the early 1960s with the band The Forminx, before experiencing his first European success with the highly psychedelic Aphrodite’s Child.

This trio of Greek musicians, who also discovered the singer Demis Roussos, went into exile in France in 1968, after returning to the British border. Its short existence will be marked by several hits (Rain and tears, it is five o’clock, the end of the world) and will end in 1971 with the apocalyptic double album 666now considered a masterpiece of progressive rock.

As Demis Roussos took the commercial path, Vangelis immersed himself in instrumental music and established himself as a pioneer of the electronic scene, along with Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and Jean-Michel Jarre.

Located in London in the mid-1970s, where he opened a studio, the musician puts on albums with synthetic sounds like Spiral, Baubourg where Albedo 0.39as well as music for wildlife documentaries (Wild Party, Wild Opera, The Animal Apocalypse) which confirm his talent for atmosphere, between rhythmic and contemplative music, a mixture that he will explore all his life.

In the early 1980s, Vangelis definitely established himself as a leading artist of his time. First in cinemas, with soundtracks of Fire carts AND blade runnerbut also on the stage, with the success of Mr. Cairo’s friends, which he produced with Jon Anderson, the former singer of the band Yes. The circle is complete, as a few years ago, the composer had refused to join the English prog-formation to replace Rick Wakeman, for fear of losing his creative freedom.

In orbit

Among other notable collaborations, Vangelis produced the album Commerce for the Greek actress Irène Papas (1979) and produced film music for Costa-Gavras (Missing), Roman Polansky (bile moons) and Oliver Stone (Alexandria).

But since the 2000s, we particularly remember his contributions to space exploration. In 2001, he signed the theme of Mythodeafor NASA missions to the planet Mars, and that of the probe Rosetta, launched in 2012 by the European Space Agency. Without forgetting Juno on Jupitera digital and interactive concept work, launched online in 2021.

On the ground, we owe it to the anthem of the World Cup in 2002. Forgotten.

A sacred monster, Vangelis was also a rare public figure. We hold the image of a bearded man inaccessible, isolated in his studios to explore the universe of sounds. In recent years, he said he no longer wanted to appear on stage, for fear of a shock with his audience, who would inevitably have claimed his old successes.

Despite his fame, his relationship with the music industry was marginal, far from the star system.

His music could have a pompous, majestic side, taste flaws. Some of his albums are less outdated. But Vangelis’s odyssey is no less special. Few composers have so well reconciled the commercial and the avant-garde, the exciting and the scholarly, the earthly and the cosmic, the known and the exotic. Genius probably not, but monument yes. It was the Parthenon of electronic music.

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