Famed film composer Vangelis passes away

Vangelis, the Greek prog-rocker and Oscar-winning composer for films like Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner, has died at the age of 79.

The law firm representing the composer said he died late on Tuesday, without giving a cause of death.

Born Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou in 1943, the young Vangelis developed an early interest in music and experiments with sounds produced by banging pots and pans or fixing nails, glasses and other objects to the strings of his parents' piano.

He absorbed the tones of Greek folk songs and Orthodox Christian choral music, but he had no formal musical training, which he later said had helped save his sense of creativity.

After a start with local rock bands, Vangelis left for Paris at the age of 25, joining an exodus of young artists following a 1967 coup that installed a military junta in Greece.

Away from home, he was attracted by the then-new field of electronic synthesizers that allowed him to create the lush melodic colours that became his trademark sound.

Despite enjoying success in the European "prog rock" scene of the early 1970s with Aphrodite's Child, a band he formed with fellow Greek musician Demis Roussos, Vangelis was uncomfortable with the expectations on a commercial performing artist and largely retreated to the recording studio he created for himself in London.

It was there that he wrote the score for "Chariots of Fire", the story of the triumph of a group of British runners at the 1924 Olympic Games.

Unashamedly non-contemporary, its pulsating synthesizer beats and soaring melody made the slow motion opening sequence of a group of athletes running along a beach a model for the way the cinema portrayed sport.