Vangelis Papathanasiou (1943-2022) |  A monument fades

Vangelis Papathanasiou (1943-2022) | A monument fades

He was not a Greek god, but his music was divine. Vangelis Odysseas Papathanassiou, better known as Vangelis, passed away on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday at the age of 79. According to information from 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

A great loss for the musical world.

A prolific composer, keyboard wizard, pioneer of electronic music and a great figure in film music of the last 50 years, Vangelis received an Oscar in particular for the film’s soundtrack. Fire cars in 1982, and Golden Globe nominations for the music of Bounty hunter in 1983 and 1492: Christopher Columbus in 1993.

Active until very recently, released Juno to Jupiter in 2021, a work of a sidereal nature.

Less known in Greece than the immense Mikis Theodorakis, Vangelis was nonetheless considered a national treasure for 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 Papathanassiou is no longer with us. The world of music has 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 began his great journey in 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 hits with the highly psychedelic Aphrodite’s Child.

This trio of Greek musicians, who also revealed the singer Demis Roussos, went into exile in France in 1968, after being turned back at the British border. Its short existence will be marked 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 666now considered a progressive rock masterpiece.

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

Settled in London in the mid-70s, where he opened a studio, the musician produces records with synthetic sounds such as Spiral, Baubourg Where Albedo 0.39as well as music for wildlife documentaries (the wild party, Wild Opera, Animal Apocalypse) that confirm his talent for atmospheres, between rhythmic and contemplative music, a mix that he would explore throughout his life.

By the early 1980s, Vangelis was definitively established as one of the leading artists of his time. First in the cinema, with the soundtracks of Fire cars Y Bounty hunterbut 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 closes, since a few years earlier, the composer had refused to join the English prog band to replace Rick Wakeman, for fear of losing his creative freedom.

in orbit

Among other notable collaborations, Vangelis produced the album odes for Greek actress Irène Papas (1979) and produced film music for Costa-Gavras (lost), Roman Polansky (ice moons) and Oliver Stone (Alexander).

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

More earthy, we also owe him the anthem of the 2002 World Cup. Forgettable.

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

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

His music could have a pompous, grandiose side, errors of taste. Some of his albums have aged less well. But Vangelis’s odyssey is no less special. Few composers have so well reconciled the commercial and the avant-garde, the soulful and the erudite, the terrestrial and the cosmic, the familiar and the exotic. Genius perhaps not, but monument yes. It was the Parthenon of electronic music.

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