The prolific Greek songwriter and producer was a huge influence on electronic music and the sounds of the '80s.

The Oscar-winning film composer Vangelis has died. He was 79. As a testament to his vast achievements and worldwide influence, the news was confirmed by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece.

"Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer among us," Mitsotakis tweeted.

Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in 1943, Vangelis became interested in music at a young age. Leaving his home country of Greece after the 1967 coup that brought a right-wing military dictatorship to power, Vangelis settled in Paris. There he formed the progressive rock band Aphrodite's Child, which found commercial success in Europe.

He developed his electronic sound further with through his solo albums and another collaboration, Jon and Vangelis, a duo he formed with Yes singer Jon Anderson. Around this time he moved to London, where he was based for the rest of his career.

In the early 1980s, filmmakers and TV creatives took notice of his work, realizing it was a great fit for the soundtracks of their projects. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan used several of his compositions in the 1980 series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, but Vangelis' breakthrough mainstream success came with 1981's Chariots of Fire.

Though he later told Spin magazine, "I did it because I liked the people I was working with. It was a very humble, low-budget film," the movie went on to win Best Picture and Vangelis won Best Original Score, turning his electronic sounds into an international sensation. The film's main theme song, "Chariots of Fire," reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and has often been used in Olympic ceremonies and in other sporting events and sports films.

Greek composer and keyboard player Vangelis poses at his apartment in Paris, 9th June 1991.
Oscar-winning Greek composer Vangelis has died at 79.
| Credit: Rob Verhorst/Redferns

In 1982, Vangelis scored both Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, in which his moody, melancholy music was an integral part of the film's dystopian aura, and fellow Greek artist Costa-Gavras' Palme d'Or–winning film Missing, which explored the aftermath of a right-wing military dictator coming to power in Chile, similar to the events that took place in Greece. A decade later, Vangelis reteamed with Scott for 1492: Conquest of Paradise, a film that marked the 500th anniversary of explorer Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas.

Vangelis was prolific throughout his career. His final studio album, Juno to Jupiter, was released last September and was inspired by NASA space missions.

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Blade Runner
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