Vangelis, the composer behind the now iconic Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner scores, died on Tuesday, May 17. He was 79. The Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, confirmed his passing on Twitter, writing, "Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer among us."
"For the whole world, the sad news states that the world music firm has lost the international Vangelis. The protagonist of electronic sound, the Oscars, the Myth and the great hits," Mitsotakis continued. "For us Greeks, however, knowing that his second name was Odysséas means that he began his long journey in the Roads of Fire. From there he will always send us his notes."
Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou on March 29, 1943 in Agria, Greece, Vangelis was a self-taught musician who worked almost exclusively with electronic instruments. Throughout the 1960s, he performed in several pop bands while scoring music for Greek films, beginning with 1963's My Brother, the Traffic Policeman.
Director Hugh Hudson enlisted his friend Vangelis to compose the score for his 1981 film, Chariots of Fire, a radical pairing of synth-driven music with a period drama set during the 1924 Olympics. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Original Score for Vangelis. "Chariots of Fire," the movie's theme, also spent four weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and was nominated for the GRAMMY for Record of the Year.
"Nobody believed the film would be so successful," Vangelis said in a 1985 interview. "When I wrote the score, I didn't write it to be number one; I did it because I liked the people I was working with. It was a very humble, low-budget film."
Vangelis would go on to compose the scores for Blade Runner (1982), Missing (1982), Antarctica (1983), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) and Alexander (2004), among others.
"I have taken very dangerous steps in my career, going from certain success into the unknown," Vangelis explained in a separate interview. "I compose for myself, which is the best thing to do, and every day I do something different. Maybe tomorrow it will be a ballet, or an opera, or some African music. I don't want to be successful. I want to be me."