Interesting and Lesser-Known Facts about Vangelis
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."
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" 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. ;-)
The "Chariots of Fire" album in its entirety was introduced to me not too long after I was introduced to Madeleine L'Engle's writing, and this music made the perfect accompaniment to her beautiful, mystical young adult fiction.
"Conquest of Paradise" is another of my favorite scores by Vangelis, and I've always rather associated it with achieving personal goals and victories.
When I heard Vangelis' music within the "Blade Runner" movie, I was in tears, it was so beautiful and haunting.