Vangelis, champion of the Yamaha CS-80 and revered producer, has died aged 79

The legendary Greek musician was best known for his work on Blade Runner and his Oscar-winning score for Chariots of Fire

Vangelis

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Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, professionally known as Vangelis, has passed away at aged 79. The Oscar-winning Greek musician, producer and composer died in hospital in France, according to Greek publication OT.

The legendary composer helped pave the way for countless epic soundtracks and inspired generations of producers keen to replicate the sounds of his synth-driven score for Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, Blade Runner. His work on 1981’s Chariots of Fire won him an Academy Award for Best Original Score and elevated him to the world stage, with subsequent commissions to soundtrack global sporting events, alongside many more movie soundtracks. The score also topped the Billboard 200 album charts in the US.

In his earlier years, the self-taught musician found fame with Greek rock bands Forminx and Aphrodite’s Child. His soundtracking ventures began while he was in Aphrodite’s Child, having written the score to L’Apocalypse des animaux, which was released in 1973.

Vangelis would later become an icon of synthesis and music production. He is renowned for his proficiency with the Yamaha CS-80, released in 1977 and notorious for its complex interface and extensive performance functions. He said in a 1984 interview with Electronics & Music Maker magazine that the CS-80 was “the most important synthesizer” in his career.

“And for me the best analogue synthesizer design there has ever been,” he added. “It was a brilliant instrument, though unfortunately not a very successful one. It needs a lot of practice if you want to be able to play it properly, but that’s because it’s the only synthesizer I could describe as being a real instrument, mainly because of the keyboard — the way it’s built and what you can do with it.”

In the same interview, he observed the state of the synth market in the early 80s and encouraged manufacturers to improve their products.

“Today, the only thing that matters to synth makers and synth players is the supply of different sounds — nothing else,” he said. “The manufacturers have a responsibility to fit synthesizers with better keyboards so that people get some encouragement to play better, because if all you do is use synths as a source of sounds, you’ll never be a complete performer. You’ll never be a player in the practical sense, you won’t acquire fast reactions.”

“Take Yamaha,” Vangelis continued. “[It] can go ahead and sell DX7s, but there’s no reason why [it] can’t also build an extraordinary instrument…When Yamaha created the CS-80, I expected them to refine it and improve it, make it lighter, put new sounds on it, but they didn’t.”

Vangelis’ final studio album, released in 2021, was inspired by NASA’s space mission of Juno to Jupiter, but could also be a clever nod towards two iconic synthesizer series, the Roland Juno and Roland Jupiter series.

 

Tributes have poured in from countless listeners around the world.

Armin van Buuren said, “I’m so sad to hear these terrible news [sic] of the passing of Vangelis…He was one of my heroes, a big inspiration and just a beautiful person.”

Rapper and producer R.A The Rugged Man shared a photo of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA in the studio with Vangelis working on an album that never saw the light of day.

Elon Musk, the infamous tech figurehead who has dipped his feet into music production, left a tribute of his own, too.

Run The Jewels rapper El-p cited Vangelis as his “personal musical hero,” while independent music software developer ValhallaDSP said that Vangelis was its “main influence.”

This story is being updated as more information comes.