Earlier this week, on May 17, one of the best Hollywood composers Vangelis passed away at age 79. Though he’s not the most prolific film composer, the few scores that he did are practically iconic. As a fan of the Greek maestro, I thought I’d do a tribute in this month’s Music Break.
Known for his orchestral style of electronic music, he began scoring music in the 60s for Greek films. In the 70s he achieved success as a solo artist, releasing a series of electronic albums while he also composed scores for various films and documentaries, including L’Apocalypse des animaux, a French documentary on animal kingdom. His mainstream success came in 1981 with the score for Chariots of Fire. It’s single reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and the album sold a million copies in the US. He won Best Original Score at the Oscars and was used at the 1984 Winter Olympics.
Here are five of my favorite Vangelis film tracks/scores:
Chariots of Fire – 1981
It’s the first Vangelis’ score I’ve ever heard and it’s stayed with me ever since. I remember watching the movie with my brother and not only did the film’s spiritual aspect move me, the music is absolutely transcendent. It’s one of those phenomenal pieces of music that’s instantly recognizable even when you just play a couple of notes.
The Year Of Living Dangerously (Excerpts of L’enfant) – 1982
Maurice Jarre scored the soundtrack to the film, but an excerpt from Vangelis’ song L’enfant from his soundtrack album Opera Sauvage was used.
Blade Runner – 1982
It’s still one of the best and most influential electronic music. The emotive synth-based sound is both sad and sensual, especially the Love Theme. It’s so emotional and soul-piercing, truly a masterpiece that’s as timeless as the film itself. Even Denis Villeneuve believed Blade Runner 2049 needed music that sounded more like Vangelis, so he parted ways from Johann Johannsson and brought in Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch to make it sound more like the movie’s predecessor (source: Screenrant)
In the same year, Vangelis worked on the score for this based-on-a-true-story drama. The story is about. an idealistic American journalist who disappears during the Chilean coup d’état in September 1973. The score has such haunting quality and is appropriately sorrowful.
1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
I haven’t seen this movie but I love the majestic sound and the use of choir here. The evocative theme definitely makes it feel like you’re on a journey at sea. Per IMDb, Hans Zimmer was originally chosen to compose the music for the film until Ridley Scott decided to approach Vangelis.
Thank you Vangelis for your beautiful work… your timeless music shall live on. May you rest in peace.