Goodbye Vangelis, Dame Hilary and Raymond Briggs

It’s weird how things coincide. There I was today, picking out some CDs I wanted to listen to again from my very large collection of actual discs in plastic cases, and amongst them was something called Synthesizer Hits, performed by the Megabyte Orchestra, from 1997. 1997! Lord, I’m revealing my age here. I wanted to listen to it since I’ve been composing using synthesizers. So I pulled the CD into iTunes and there was one track that gave me goosebumps. What was it, I wondered. Ah, it is To the Unknown Man by someone called …Papathanassiou. What a name. Googled it. Who is it? Vangelis. The Vangelis. Real name: Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou (Greek: Ευάγγελος Οδυσσέας Παπαθανασίου) I should’ve guessed. (Vangelis was his avatar – he was a notoriously private person.)

And then I saw: Vangelis died of heart failure on May 17, 2022, at the age of 79, at a hospital in Paris. He was suffering from several health issues in the last couple of years and allegedly died of COVID-19 complications, according to a number of reports. Damn. Another great artist gone.

Vangelis (Photo: The Globe and Mail, Georges Bendrihem/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m beginning to feel that the past three years have been nothing but a Series of Unfortunate Events, and a growing list of obituaries of artists who I really appreciated.

This discovery comes after the news of the death of one of my favourite authors and illustrators, Raymond Briggs, on August 9, 2022, at age 88, of pneumonia. (Remember Fungus the Bogeyman, The Snowman and When the Wind Blows?) And then, the sudden death – apparently from a stroke – of Hilary Mantel, on September 22, 2022, at the age of 70.

Dame Hilary Mantel (Photo: The Guardian UK)

So, no more lovely books from them. No more music from him. But what wonderful legacies they leave behind. I guess when you have created a body of work that will be loved, appreciated and studied long after you are gone, then your death is not utterly final. You do not exist any more but something of you lingers on in your work – your characters, your words, your melodies, your images.

Would that all of us are so fortunate as to leave life in this way.

Here is a reminder of the beautiful music Vangelis created:

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