Vangelis (pronounced /van-ge-liss/, with a hard "g" as in "get") is a world-renowned new age and electronic composer and musician. He was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (/evan-ge-loss odee-say-ass papa-thana-see-ou/) on March 29, 1943 in Volos, Greece.
His best known compositions are the Academy Award-winning 1981 theme to the film Chariots of Fire, the entire score to the movie Blade Runner, the themes used in the soundtrack of Carl Sagan's Cosmos and the title piece for the 1992 movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise. He also composed the anthem of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. A version of "Pulstar", from the album Albedo 0.39, was an early theme for ESPN's SportsCenter program and served as the news themes for WTVK and WNEV. Less widely known was the usage of an excerpt of L'enfant as the underscore for a series of Old Style Beer ads, featuring scenes of arctic ice and snow, emphasizing the beer's "cool-brewed" aging process.
(1943-1960) Formative years
On March 29. 1943 Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou [in Greek: Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου, Spanish: Evángelos Odhiséas Papathanasíu] was born in Volos, Greece.
He began composing when 4 years old, and is largely a self-taught musician. He refused to take traditional piano lessons, and throughout his career did not have substantial knowledge of reading or writing musical notation. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Athens.
(1961-1972) Early works in bands
In the early 1960s he formed the pop group Forminx (sometimes spelled "Formynx"), which became very popular in Greece.
During the student riots in 1968 he moved to Paris and formed progressive rock band Aphrodite's Child with Demis Roussos and Loukas Sideras. They had a hit single in Europe called "Rain and Tears", and are considered pivotal in the development of progressive rock and concept albums, especially because of their ground-breaking double album 666. In 1972 the group was disbanded, although Vangelis has since produced several albums and singles for Roussos as well as Roussos contributing vocals to the Blade Runner soundtrack.
(1973-1980) Beginning of solo career
In 1973, Vangelis began his solo work by writing scores to two films by French filmmaker Frédéric Rossif. His first official solo album was Earth, also recorded in 1973. At about the same time, he rehearsed for a couple of weeks with another prog-rock band, Yes. Although he never joined the band (they ended up hiring Patrick Moraz), he became friends with singer Jon Anderson, with whom he later worked on many occasions.
After moving to London, Vangelis signed a deal with RCA Records, set up his own studio, Nemo Studios, and began recording a string of well-regarded electronic albums, such as the acclaimed Heaven and Hell (1975), Spiral (1977) and China (1979). Vangelis' Heaven and Hell was later used as the theme to the PBS television series Cosmos by Carl Sagan. He also contributed as a producer and keyboard player to the album Phos, which was perhaps the most important recording by Greek rock band Socrates Drank the Conium.
(1981-1999) Work in film and commercial success
In 1981 Vangelis wrote the score for Chariots of Fire. Though the electronic score might be considered, in hindsight, ill-suited to a period piece, it worked beyond anyone's expectations. The movie won a half-dozen awards, including Best Picture of the year. Vangelis himself won the Academy Award for Original Music Score. The opening theme of the film (appropriately titled "Titles" on the soundtrack) was released as a single in 1982, topping the Billboard chart for for one week after climbing steadily for over five months. Only one other instrumental track, 1985's "Miami Vice Theme," has topped that chart since.
Vangelis also collaborated in 1981 and 1986 with Italian singer Milva, achieving a large success especially in Germany with the albums Ich hab'keine Angst and Geheimnisse.
Perhaps inspired by the success of Chariots of Fire, in 1983, director Peter Weir used previously released Vangelis music in his film The Year of Living Dangerously, most notably "L'enfant" from 1979's Opera Sauvage. In 1982 Vangelis began a collaboration with director Ridley Scott: Vangelis scored his Blade Runner (1982), and would later score 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992). He also scored many of the undersea documentaries of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. In 1992, France made him a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.
In 1996 the British ambient dance duo Future Sound of London sampled the track 'Rachel's Song' from the Blade Runner soundtrack for use on their My Kingdom EP.
During the 1980s and 1990s, he and Jon Anderson released several albums together as Jon & Vangelis.
(2000-present) Later days
In 2001 Vangelis released Mythodea, an orchestral rather than electronic piece that was originally written in 1993, and used by NASA as the theme for the Mars missions.
In 2004 he released Alexander, a CD soundtrack of his score for Oliver Stone's movie Alexander, continuing his involvement with projects related to his homeland.
- VangelisWorld.com - The official Vangelis website, which has been "under construction" since 1995.
- Vangelis.com - Another possible website, also "under construction" since 2000.
- Vangelis at the SoundtrackINFO project
- Elsew.com - Elsewhere - Privately owned frequently updated Vangelis website: bio, discog, interviews, etc.
- Rolling Stone biography
- Vangelis Artist Profile with reviews of his major work.
- Instruments used by Vangelis (Blade Runner fansite)
- Alexander Soundtrack - Commercial Sony website, but with audio and video resources.
- Vangelis Collector - The most complete information on Vangelis' discography.
- The Greek Home of Vangelis - The Only Greek Vangelis Website
- Vangelis on the Internet
- a list of web links