Film score composer John Barry died from a heart attack over the weekend (Jan 30). Barry, who received an OBE for his work, composed countless scores including 11 James Bond soundtracks. He also won numerous accolades over his illustrious career, including five Academy Awards, a Grammy and a Bafta.
Film score composer John Barry, who passed away at the weekend (Jan 30), was recognised several times by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Baftas). He received the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music for The Lion in Winter, the Fellowship Award in 2005, and a few more nominations.
John Barry’s career begun with his own band, the John Barry Seven, which had a handful of hit records including ‘Hit And Miss’, the theme to the BBC’s Jukebox Jury show. He was then employed by EMI between 1959 and 1962 to provide orchestral arrangements for their recording artists.
1960 saw the release of Beat Girl, a film about late fifties rebellion featuring Gillian Hills. It was one of John Barry’s earliest works, and the first British soundtrack album to be released on LP.
Arguably John Barry’s most memorable work was the theme for the first James Bond movie Dr. No. Initially written by Monty Norman (although some believe Barry wrote it too), and envisaged as a calypso version of the song ‘Three Blind Mice’, the ‘James Bond Theme’ was orchestrated by John Barry and became the calling card for the secret agent films from then on.
John Barry’s next major piece of work was the soundtrack to the 1964 historical war film Zulu, which starred Michael Caine and Stanley Baker, with a spoken word intro and outro from Richard Burton.
The Ipcress File was a 1965 espionage film starring Michael Caine and based on a Len Deighton novel from three years earlier. The score was full of flute flourishes, cymbal patters and playful orchestration so indicative of Barry. Listen to it on YouTube.
The score for the 1966 film Born Free saw John Barry scoop two Oscars, while its title track became a hit for three artists: pianist Roger Williams, singer Matt Monroe, and R&B group The Hesitations. Listen to the theme on YouTube.
1968’s The Lion In Winter, starring Peter O’Toole, also bagged John Barry an Oscar. Listen to the brass-filled theme on YouTube. Clint Mansell (of The Wrestler fame) said of the news: “I hope Mr. Barry was as fulfilled in his life and with his work as we, as audience, are when we listen to his extraordinary creations.”
Featuring one of the most memorable harmonica lines of all time, the score to Midnight Cowboy, which was incidentally the first X-rated movie to win an Oscar (although not for John Barry this time).
In 1991, John Barry picked up an Oscar for his soundtrack to Dances With Wolves. He was also nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Bafta (losing out to The Sheltering Sky and Cyrano de Bergerac respectively). Read composer David Arnold on the genius of John Barry.