‘Chariots of Fire,’ ‘Blade Runner’ composer Vangelis dead at 79

Vangelis, the self-taught Greek composer who won an Academy Award for his musical score for “Chariots of Fire,” and also wrote the theme to “Blade Runner,” died Tuesday in Paris. He was 79.

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No cause of death was given for the composer, who was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, died in a hospital where he was being treated for COVID-19, according to OT, a Greek newspaper. His assistant, Lefteris Zermas, also confirmed the death but did not give a specific cause, The Washington Post reported.

“Vangelis Papathanassiou is no longer with us. For the whole world, this sad news demonstrates that the world music scene has lost the international ‘Vangelis,’ the protagonist of electronic sound, of the Oscars, of Mythology and the hits,” Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, tweeted, according to Rolling Stone. “For us Greeks, who know his second name was Odysseus, it means that he’s begun his long trip to the Chariots of Fire. From there, he’ll always send us his notes.”

The opening credits of “Chariots of Fire” show several young runners moving in slow motion across a beach in Scotland during the 1920s, as the music swells majestically in an ornate arrangement. It is one of the most recognizable musical themes in film history, according to The Associated Press.

Born on March 29, 1943, in central Greece, Vangelis was a self-taught musician who was a piano prodigy as a youth, NPR reported.

“Orchestration, composition — they teach these things in music schools, but there are some things you can never teach,” he said in a 1982 interview, according to the AP. “You can’t teach creation.”

At 20, Vangelis and three friends formed the Forminx band in Athens, according to the AP.

He moved to Paris and co-founded Aphrodite’s Child, a progressive rock ’n’ roll group. After the band broke up, Vangelis got a solo record contract with RCA Records, according to NPR.

Vangelis composed the score for “Chariots of Fire” in 1981, and the song was released as a single and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and stayed there for four weeks. Vangelis played all of the instruments on the soundtrack and would win an Oscar for best original score, Rolling Stone reported.

Vangelis then scored another success with the synthesizer-influenced musical score for the 1982 film, “Blade Runner,” according to the magazine.

Ridley Scott’s neo-noir science-fiction film was originally a flop but gained traction through the years and inspired a sequel in 2017, the Post reported.

Scott told the newspaper in a 2017 interview that Vangelis’ musical idea for the film’s opening shot -- a futuristic scene in Los Angeles against a broiling night sky -- stunned him.

“Honestly, my hairs stood on end,” Scott told the newspaper. “He was the soul of the movie.”

Vangelis also created the music for “Carl Sagan’s Cosmos” and at athletic events such as the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and the 2012 FIFA World Cup in Japan, Rolling Stone reported. Vangelis and Yes singer Jon Anderson also collaborated on three albums, the magazine reported.