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Interesting and Lesser-Known Facts about Vangelis

Updated on March 24, 2009

So Long Ago, So Clear...

When you hear the name Vangelis, what do you think of first? Either you know of him just briefly having heard his music in various commercials, or you're a longtime devoted fan, so depending on where you are in that spectrum, you probably know either a little or a lot.

I'm one of those longtime devoted fans, but there were some things I didn't know about him. Other than the fact that he's Greek, and he's well-known for both his collaborations with Jon Anderson of Yes, plus his award-winning scores for "Blade Runner," "1492: Conquest of Paradise," and "Chariots of Fire."

So let's check out some of the lesser-known stuff about him, shall we?

1) People wonder at the pronunciation of this guy's "performance" name, which is a diminutive of his actual name, Evangelos. I've heard it pronounced (and pronounced it myself) with a soft 'g' as in hair "gel," but according to the International Phonetic Alphabet, that 'g' in his name is a hard 'g', as in "go" or "get." So now that we have that all straightened out, let's go to the next item.

2) That prodigious talent for keyboards, where does it come from? Well, talent comes from the Universe, but practice makes gorgeous in Vangelis' case. But did he take lessons? Nope. He refused to take piano lessons, preferring to teach himself, and I think he did a first-rate job. ;-)

3) And what made this guy so headstrong in the first place? And how old is he, really? Considering he does not do many performances at all, mostly studio albums, and they're all beautiful and progressively spacey, it's been truly hard to guess, making him seem a bit ageless at times. His birthday, I found out, is only five days after mine! I was born on March 24th. He was born on the 29th, making him a fellow Aries of mine! But what year? 1943, precisely one year and seven months older than his co-collaborator, Jon Anderson.

4) With so much talent, one would think he could read and write music. Not really. He did finally enroll at a special arts academy, and when the professors asked him to play something, he said that he pretended to read the music and play from memory. He didn't fool the profs one bit, but like a true Aries, he didn't care.

5) Ever heard of the band "Aphrodite's Child"? Vangelis headed up that group in 1968, at the time of the student riots in France. They wanted to move into the UK, but were unsuccessful, so they made a home in Paris. 

6) While involved with Aphrodite's Child, Vangelis had some other stuff going on the side, some of it having been inspired by the aforementioned riots, such as the album "Fais que Ton Rêve Soit Plus Long que la Nuit (Make your dream last longer than the night)," which was comprised of snippets of songs and lyrics based on the graffiti on walls.

7) Vangelis was tipped to join Yes as their keyboardist after Rick Wakeman left, but after a few rehearsals and because of immigration issues, he did not join them after all. That was, however, how he became friends with Jon Anderson, with whom he went on to record several albums after their first recording together of a song "So Long Ago, So Clear," which featured on Vangelis' 1975 album "Heaven & Hell."

8) Everyone knows that familiar theme to the "Chariots of Fire" movie, right? Well, what a lot of people *don't* know is that another Greek composer, Stavros Logarides, sued Vangelis, accusing him of using parts of Stavros' melody "City of Violets." To prove his innocence, Vangelis set up his keyboards in the courtroom and demonstrated his composition process. The judge ruled that though minor parts might be similar, the song truly was an original.

9) Both "Blade Runner" and "1492: Conquest of Paradise," scored by Vangelis, were directed by Ridley Scott.

10) If you're an admirer of the late French ecologist and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, you'll love the fact that in the 1990s, Vangelis scored a number of undersea documentaries for him. 

11) Despite three long-term relationships, Vangelis has never fathered kids. When asked why, he replied:

"...Because of the amount of travelling I do and the nonsense of the music business. I couldn't take care of a child in the way I think it should be taken care of." 

Wise man.

12) In addition to his considerable musical skills, Vangelis is also a painter, his first exhibition touring in South America in 2005.

13) Because of his contributions, musically, to astronomy, not only was a minor planet named after him (6534 Vangelis) by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, NASA conferred upon Vangelis their Public Service Medal. The award is the highest honor the space agency gives to those not involved in the US government. Other honors include a French knighthood of the Order of Arts & Letters, and an award from the American Hellenic Institute for his pioneering brand of music and for promoting Hellenism through the arts.

Well, he may have gotten all those honors from official institutions, but I think his fans, if they could, would give him millions of "thank yous" and kudos for creating such beautiful, inspiring music to listen to while watching the stars, falling in love and other life events. 

How DOES he DO it...Inspiring us ALL like this?

With These Two Guys as Eternal Lights...who WOULDN'T Find Their Way Home?

A Few of my Favorite Spacy, Vangelis Things!

Heaven & Hell
Heaven & Hell

"Heaven & Hell" is one of my ultimate favorite Vangelis albums. Not only did parts of "Heaven & Hell" get featured on the soundtrack to Carl Sagan's COSMOS series (RIP, Carl!), but this album is the first collaboration of Jon Anderson and Vangelis ever, on the tear-jerkingly beautiful song "So Long Ago, So Clear," where Jon sings like the angel he is. ;-)



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    • BardScribe profile image

      BardScribe 4 years ago from Iowa

      @ Paul Gibsons: I am fairly familiar with Peter Gabriel, and most definitely familiar with Rick Wakeman, who, in recent years, has done a few tours and one album with Jon Anderson (who remains forever my Chief Muse). I became familiar with Karl Jenkins/Adiemus about 15 or so years ago, when their theme song was on the "Pure Moods" album--and in 2006, I found their "Eternal Knot" CD, which speaks SO vividly to my own Celtic heritage and my feelings of connection with the Divine.

    • paul_gibsons profile image

      paul_gibsons 8 years ago from Gibsons, BC, Canada

      wait till you discover Peter Gabriel (and the original Genesis) lol.... Actually Vangelis represents a whole european "tradition" in his music and approach, from Jean Michel Jarre, Wakeman, Soft Machine through to Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream,Oldfield and Karl Jenkins(Adiemus).. and a number of others that escape me at the moment. Enjoy!

    • BardScribe profile image

      BardScribe 8 years ago from Iowa

      MindField--You will not regret it! Jon's cosmic, heavenly voice mixed with Vangelis' own dynamic music--literally a music collaboration straight from the Heavens, given to us all for inspirational purposes...

      And yes, I agree, the "Titles" theme for Chariots of Fire is very stirring, indeed. The hymn "Jerusalem" (words by William Blake, tune by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry) is another song on the "Chariots" album that sends me into mystical fits, because the second stanza fits my Aries with Sag. Rising Nature--AND is the inspiration for the movie's title:

      "Bring me my bow of burning gold,

      Bring me my arrows of desire!

      Bring me my spear, O clouds unfold!

      Bring me my chariot of fire!"

    • MindField profile image

      MindField 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I really enjoyed this, Bard! Chariots of Fire is one of those songs in my life that never fails to stir me. Jon Anderson is new to me but I look forward to picking up some of his and Vangelis's CDs at the library. Thanks so much.

    • BardScribe profile image

      BardScribe 8 years ago from Iowa

      Hi, Cris! Woohoo! Enya and Loreena are also two of my favorites as well.

      Though Jon Anderson and Vangelis are my true Muses, I will confess.

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      vangelis is right there with enya and loreeta mckenitt with my new age music faves :D