Vangelis Papathanasiou (1943-2022) | A monument is extinguished

He wasn’t a Greek god, the more 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 had been admitted to a hospital in France due to COVID-19.

Updated May 19

Jean-Christophe Laurence

Jean-Christophe Laurence
The Press

A big loss for the musical world.

A prolific composer, keyboard wizard, pioneer of electronic music and a major figure in the music of music for the past 50 years, Vangelis is awaiting an Oscar for his film soundtrack. chariots of fire in 1982, and Golden Globe nominations for the music of blade runner in 1983 and 1492: Christopher Columbus in 1993.

Active until very recently, he launched Juno to Jupiter in 2021, he joins work with a sidereal character.

Less known in Greece than the immense Mikis Theodorakis, Vangelis was no less 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 networks on Wednesday. “Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us. The music world has lost [l’artiste] international Vangelis,” the politician said on Twitter.

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

Son of Aphrodite

Born in 1943 in Volon, Thessaly, this self-taught musician began his career in Greece in the early 1960s with the “yéyellenique” group The Forminx, before experiencing his first European successes with the very psychedelic Aphrodite’s Child.

This trio of Greek musicians, who also revealed singer Demis Roussos, went into exile in France in 1968, after being turned back at the British border. Its short existence will be punctuated by several hits (Rain and tears, it’s five o’clock, end of the world) and will end in 1971 with the apocalyptic double album 666consider today with me a masterpiece of progressive rock.

While Demis Roussos takes the commercial route, Vangelis immerses himself in instrumental music and imposes himself with me as a pioneer of the electronic scene, in the same way as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre.

Settled in London in the mid-1970s, where he opened a studio, the musician puts on albums with synthetic sounds like Spiral, Baubourg or Albedo 0.39even if music for wildlife documentaries (The Wild Party, Opéra Sauvage, The Animal Apocalypse) which confirms his talent for atmospheres, between rhythmic and contemplative music, a mixture that he will explore all his life.

At the beginning of the 1980s, Vangelis definitively imposed himself with me as a major artist of his time. First in the cinema, with the soundtracks of chariots of fire and blade runnermore also in pop, with the success of Friends of Mr. Cairo, which he produced with Jon Anderson, the former singer of the group Yes. The circle is complete, for a few years earlier, 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 odes for the Greek actress Irène Papas (1979) and produced film music for Costa-Gavras (Faded away), Roman Polansky (faithful moons) and Oliver Stone (alexander).

More after the 2000s, on the retentive surges in contributions to space exploration. In 2001, he signed the theme of mythfor the NASA missions against the plane of Mars, and that of the probe rosette, launched in 2012 by the European Space Agency. Without forgetting Juno to Jupitera digital and interactive concept work, put online in 2021.

More down to earth, we also owe him the anthem of the Soccer World Cup in 2002. Forgettable.

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

Despite his notoriety, his relationship to the music industry was that of a marginal, far from the star system.

His music could have a pompous, grandiloquent side, errors of taste. Some of his albums have aged less well. More the odyssey of Vangelis remains no less special. Few composers have so well reconciled the commercial and the avant-garde, the moving and the scholarly, the terrestrial and the cosmic, the familiar and the exotic. Genius maybe not, more a monument yes. It was the Parthenon of electronic music.

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