Evangelos Odyssey Papathanassiou became a pop star in his home country, Greece, before going on to become world famous under the name Vangelis for his genre-defying electronic score to the 1982 movie "Chariots of Fire."
Born March 29, 1943, in Valos, Greece, Vangelis was interested in the piano at an early age but preferred to play it his own way rather than study with a teacher. After high school he started the band Formynx with friends, and they quickly became local stars, selling out stadiums in Greece.
His next band, Aphrodite's Child, had several hits in Europe, including the melancholy ballad "Rain and Tears." After scoring several French movies in the '70s, he teamed with Jon Anderson of the progressive rock group Yes. The pair recorded several British hits under the name Jon and Vangelis, including "I'll Find My Way Home" (RealAudio excerpt).
But Vangelis vaulted to international fame when he wrote and performed the score to "Chariots of Fire." The work earned him an Oscar, as well as a string of other film-score commissions, including director Ridley Scott's "Bladerunner" (1982) and "The Bounty" (1984).
Vangelis continues to record in his studio outside London, recently releasing 1998's El Greco, a tribute to another Greek native who found success abroad.