Born Evangelos Odyssey Papathanassiou on March 29, 1943 in Greece. Addresses: Record company--East West Records, 9225 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Known around the world for his award-winning soundtrack to the film Chariots of Fire, Vangelis has been classified under a variety of genres, including New Age. He]s composed a lifetime of music for ballet and film, as well as released a number of international solo records. Born and raised in Greece, Vangelis has also lived in Paris and London, where he has his own studio called Nemo Studios, near London[s Marble Arch.
Vangelis was born Evangelos Odessey Papathanassiou in Greece in 1943. Although he began playing piano at four years old, he has never been able to read or write music on paper. When he was six, his parents enrolled him in an Athens music school. Soon, he performed his first concert of his own compositions.
Despite his love for music, Vangelis despised being schooled in the art. "When the teachers asked me to play something, I would pretend that I was reading it and play from memory," Vangelis told Joe Klien in Life. "I didn]t fool them, but I didn[t care." The young boy knew his teachers could help him become a musician, but they could not teach him how to be creative.
When Vangelis was 14 years old, he received an organ, which he painted gold, and fell in love with the electronic sound. In the 1960s, he looked forward to playing the first synthesizers, but was disappointed at their crudeness. Vangelis performed in the popular Greek pop band called Formynx when he was a teenager. He had changed his name to Vangelis--meaning "angel that brings good news"--as a derivative of his first name. Formynx was the first pop group to surface in Greece and quickly gained a large following. "It was very fortunate that I tasted success early with Formynx -- playing in front of 10,000 people in stadiums, all the hysteria," Vangelis told Kurt Loder in Rolling Stone. "It was great fun, but I wasn]t interested in that."
In 1967, Vangelis left Formynx and Greece after a right-wing military coup occurred in his homeland. He moved to Paris, where he formed the band Aphrodite[s Child, with Demis Roussos and Loukas Sideras. The group released the album Rain and Tears and the double-album 666 in France, before they broke up in 1970. Instead of moving onto another band, Vangelis began scoring music for French television documentaries. He also composed the soundtrack for the French film L]Apocalypse des Animaux for director Frederic Rossif.
Vangelis released his first solo album Dragon in 1971 on Phillips Records. In 1974, he moved to London, England, to work with the rock band Yes. Rumors began circulating that Vangelis would replace former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. However, after he rehearsed with the band for a few weeks, Vangelis determined that his musical direction was not in line with the rest of the group. But he did continue a long friendship with singer Jon Anderson.
The following year, Vangelis created his own recording studio, called Nemo Studios, near London[s Marble Arch. He often referred to it as his laboratory. The first album he recorded there was Heaven and Hell released on RCA Records. Music from the album was later used in Carl Sagan]s Cosmos television series.
In 1981, Vangelis made his mark in the world of music with the soundtrack for a film about the 1924 Olympics, called Chariots of Fire. It became the fastest-selling LP and single in the United States at the time, and quickly topped the Billboard charts. Irv Cohn wrote in Stereo Review, "The music is very much Vangelis? style, yet it is perfectly suited to the action and atmosphere of the film, with gorgeous pastoral melodies that capture the feel of England between the wars."
Vangelis had composed the popular theme for the movie using a group of synthesizers in a single room, and completed it in one afternoon. "I saw the beginning of the film, the athletes running by the ocean," Vangelis recalled in Life. "It was so healthy and joyous, all that oxygen ... and exhilaration." For his effort, the composer won an Academy Award the following year for "Best Original Score." When the award was presented, Vangelis was fast asleep in London. He discovered that he had won when a friend in Los Angeles called to congratulate him. "Over the phone, I could hear the television and a big party in the background," Vangelis later told Jereme Jones in People. "This incredible thing was going on and I was in bed."
His success with Chariots of Fire stimulated many other movie soundtracks over the years, including Missing, Blade Runner, The Bounty and 1492: The Conquest of Paradise. Almost any reference made to Vangelis after 1981 mentioned Chariots of Fire and often compared it to his later works. In 1982, he released a compilation of his previous work on The Unknown Man, released on RCA. He also continued to produce his own solo albums, as well as working with other artists.
Vangelis teamed up with his friend Jon Anderson for a series of records beginning in 1983. The duo released The Friends of Mr. Cairo and Private Collection within the same year. The latter album included a 23-minute track called "Horizon." Meanwhile, Chariots of Fire[s popularity held on strong; it was used as the theme for the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo.
Vangelis released Soil Festivities on Polygram during the same year. He derived his inspiration for the collection from the life processes taking place on the earth]s surface. "I work like a bridge between nature and what comes out through my fingers," Vangelis told Jones in People.
In 1985, Vangelis expanded into another musical venue, composing music for ballet. He wrote the music for Frankenstein and Beauty and the Beast. London[s Royal Ballet performed both pieces between 1985 and 1987 at Covent Garden.
Vangelis entered the next decade with a more modern style. He recorded and released The City in 1990, which he composed and produced in a hotel room in Rome. He used the music from the disc to describe the feel of an urban day from morning until night. Jon Andrews wrote in a review for Down Beat, "Ingenious and full of hooks, The City recalls some of Vangelis] best work ... so it[s easy to forgive a little bombast or a few gimmicks."
Vangelis spent most of the 1990s experimenting in his studio and traveling around the world, although he rarely performed in concert or granted interviews. He continued to release his solo work, such as 1995]s Voices and Oceanic in 1997. He also played a special performance for the Opening Ceremonies at the Sixth IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Athens, Greece, in 1997.
From the time he was a child, Vangelis showed less signs of concern for his popularity or success as an artist than his dedication to his own creative expression. "All I try to do is let people know what I think through my music," Vangelis stated in the liner notes of his 1981 Greatest Hits. "I just bring the music to you, and it[s up to you to do what you want with it."
by Sonya Shelton
Began composing and performing music at the age of six; joined rock band Formynx, 1961; moved to Paris and joined Aphrodite[s Child, 1967; began composing and recording solo work, 1970; moved to London, England, 1974; created his own recording studio, Nemo Studios, in London, 1975; released hit soundtrack Chariots of Fire, 1981; composed music for the ballets Frankenstein and Beauty and the Beast, 1985-87; signed recording contract with East/West Records/Atlantic Records, 1990.
- Selective Works
- Dragon, Phillips Records, 1971.
- Earth, Phillips Records, 1973.
- Heaven and Hell, RCA Records, 1975.
- China, RCA Records, 1979.
- Chariots of Fire, Polygram Records, 1981.
- To The Unknown Man, RCA Records, 1982.
- Soil Festivities, Polygram Records, 1984.
- The City, Atlantic Records, 1990.
- Voices, East/West Records, 1995.
- Oceanic, Atlantic Records, 1997.
- With Jon Anderson The Friends of Mr. Cairo, Polygram Records, 1983.
- Private Collection, Polygram Records, 1983.
- Commonweal, November 20, 1992.
- Down Beat, February 1992.
- High Fidelity, August 1983.
- Library Journal, May 1, 1983.
- Life, July 1982.
- New Yorker, July 12, 1982; June 11, 1984.
- People, April 19, 1982.
- Playboy, January 1983.
- Rolling Stone, May 13, 1982.
- Stereo Review, March 1982; January 1983; December 1983; June 1985.