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R.I.P. Vangelis

I was posting my column yesterday about an old Star Trek episode when I saw that Vangelis died.

Truly, this is a far more consequential matter to write about.

Words like “influential” and “legendary” get overused but they certainly apply here. Vangelis was a hugely consequential artist in every sense of the word: from his record projects, to his film scores, to his enigmatic rock star image.

It takes a special kind of genius to practically invent his own genre—the “one–man band” synthesized orchestra—and bring it so profoundly to cinema.

A piece like “Chariots of Fire” is so simple and so perfect, rightfully becoming a cultural icon...where does it come from?

Personally, Blade Runner is the masterpiece that I come back to again and again. In the 1980s, the film was known as a sort of expensive misfire with the corny narration—and the amazing Vangelis soundtrack that you couldn’t even get in its original version. (Due to a licensing disagreement—never fully explained, adding to Vangelis’ mystique—the 1982 soundtrack album was a cheesy orchestral arrangement by the “New American Symphony.”)

But in the early 1990s, with the release of Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut and the actual Vangelis soundtrack, it was properly reappraised as a masterpiece.

It’s really hard to express just how unique, different and evocative this score was, compared to anything that had come before, especially for science fiction:

And, of course, the finale, which transcends any kind of genre trappings to become an iconic, artistic statement about humanity:

It really doesn’t get any better than this.

For more on Vangelis, see Jon Burlingame’s obituary in Variety.

Alas, I don’t have any first-hand encounters with the great man (which certainly doesn’t make me unique)—or even second-hand stories to share.

“Time to die.”

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