May 17, 2022 marked the passing of an unobtrusive modern musical giant, Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, better known as Vangelis.
A private man who almost never gave interviews, he had an amazing and continually active musical career. For starters, if you watched movies in the 80s you will recognize his theme music for Chariots of Fire:
There’s a mixed message in that video, with Evángelos taking that casual but satisfying pull from the cig before laying down some piano, meanwhile, all that physical activity going on in the background. But that was the 80s, and we didn’t care! Does anyone else miss the Golden Age of Smoking?
For me, the Vangelis classic will always be the opening of Blade Runner:
Suddenly, going to the movies would never be the same again. Come to think of it, that flick also had an impressive amount of ambient indoor smoke.
NPR’s obituary for this musical visionary offers a good thumbnail:
Vangelis was born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou in the Greek town of Agria. He was a self-taught musician who became a young piano prodigy. Then he moved to Paris and co-founded the popular prog-rock group Aphrodite’s Child. The band eventually split and Vangelis got a solo record deal with RCA Records.
In 1981 he composed the score for Chariots of Fire. Its opening theme, with its uplifting inspirational swell and ornate arrangement, was released as a single and reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100. His efforts earned him a win for best original score at the Academy Awards.
The success led him to other film work. Notably, he composed the soundtrack for the original Blade Runner, as well as Carl Sagan’s PBS documentary series Cosmos.
The notice in The Guardian has more detail, including the fact that it was his concept album 666, based on the Book of Revelation, that caused Aphrodite’s Child to split up. Whatever band members felt about the concept, I kind of like the track “Aegian Sea”:
The Aegean Sea includes Patmos, where St. John the Evangelist had the vision recorded in the Book of Revelation. So, was it just a coincidence that Vangelis’s name was Evángelos? Speaking of which, his other name (also the name of his dad) is Odysséas, which is also prophetic:
Fascinated by space exploration and science, he also composed a score for Stephen Hawking’s memorial at Westminster Abbey in 2018. His final studio album was Juno to Jupiter (2021), named after Nasa’s Juno spacecraft.
So, I hearby invoke my contribution to Funny Names Theory, “The Thelonious Monk Self-Description Prescription Prediction,” which states:
The funny birth name of a creative innovator predicts the key characteristics of the creative innovator’s creative innovation.
I loved his music and thanks for his backstory
I just cannot today with all of those syllables. I will have to wait until the time when I have more energy to sound all of that out. I do remember as a child going to the record store and buying the 45 of Chariots of Fire, which though sprawling and wordless, was similar to many other ’80s music in the sense of its inspiration and motivation ie eye of the tiger, you can do the thing.
Thanks, Kerb! For some reason, I keep imagining the puzzled look you would get from a gen Zer when you describe “going to the record store and buying the 45.”
Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou will have to wait for another day for the definitive Kerbean analysis!
So many s’s and accents!
It’s all Greek to me.
ba BUMP bump
How timely, to be returning to the BoFN while on my Honeymoon in Athens and encountering this delightful Greek name! So wonderful to see y’all keeping the blog so splendid and active!
Honeymoon?!?! Congratulations to King Dave! And Queen Dave, for that matter!