John Barry: 1933-2011

The Oscar-winning composer behind the music of Bond -- and much more -- passes away, aged 77.

by | January 31, 2011 | Comments

The world bid farewell to one of the giants of soundtrack music today, as John Barry, the multiple Oscar-winning composer associated with the James Bond scores, passed away aged 77.

Barry’s compositions for the 007 series, beginning with his arrangement of Monty Norman’s famous intro for 1962’s Dr. No, were instrumental in shaping not just the sound but the iconography of the franchise; his bold and brassy pieces are among the most instantly recognizable music cues in movie history. Barry would also compose many of Bond’s signature pop themes, including Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice” and Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill”. His last score for the series was 1987’s The Living Daylights.

Beyond Bond, Barry was a prolific composer of regard and influence. His first soundtrack, performed when the jazz-honed musician lead the group The John Barry 7, was the British teen romp Beat Girl in 1960, an early precursor to the screen sound of ’60s London. During that decade he would go on to create memorable scores for Zulu, The Ipcress File and Midnight Cowboy, among many others, while winning Oscars for his music to Born Free and The Lion In Winter. (Barry contributed to his share of cult classics, too: the creepy Seance on a Wet Afternoon, swingin’ The Knack… and How To Get It, and off-kilter Liz Taylor flop Boom! were all his impressive handiwork.)

He continued to demonstrate his versatility across the ensuing decades, composing for films as diverse as Walkabout, King Kong, The Deep, Body Heat, Disney’s The Black Hole and even the notorious Howard the Duck; more Oscars were also forthcoming, with trophies for Best Picture winners Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves. Barry’s final score was for Michael Apted’s Enigma, in 2001.

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