James Bond composer John Barry dies aged 77

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John Barry – composer of the soundtracks for classic films such as Born Free, Out of Africa, Midnight Cowboy, Somewhere in Time and the James Bond films – has died in New York of a heart attack aged 77. He is understood to have been in poor health for some time.

  Born John Barry Prendergast to a cinema-owning family in York on 3 November 1933, he first found fame as leader of the John Barry Seven. His earliest hits included ‘Hit and Miss’ (1960) which was the theme music for BBC TV’s Juke Box Jury, and a cover version of The Ventures’ ‘Walk Don’t Run’ (1960).

  The first film for which he composed, arranged and conducted the score was Beat Girl, starring Adam Faith, in 1960.

  Barry’s 1962 arrangement of Monty Norman’s James Bond theme led to him composing scores for 11 Bond films, including From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) and You Only Live Twice (1967). He was regarded as having a huge influence on the ‘coolness’ and distinctive style of the 007 series.

  Awarded an OBE in 1999 for services to music, Barry was renowned for his lush strings, orchestral swells and elegant melodies. He saw himself as much a dramatist as a composer and his music was always inextricably linked to the stories told on the screen.

  Barry was also an innovator. He was one of the first composers to use Moog synthesizers in a film score (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969).

  In a career spanning almost 50 years, Barry was responsible for some of the most memorable and beautiful film scores of all time. He won five Oscars for his film work, including two for Born Free (1967), and one for The Lion in Winter (which also won a BAFTA) in 1969, Out of Africa (1986) and Dances with Wolves (which also won a Grammy Award) in 1991.

  His work for TV included the theme for The Persuaders (1971), while his non-soundtrack work included the albums The Beyondness of Things (1999) and Eternal Echoes (2001).

  Barry’s most recent film score was for the wartime thriller Enigma (2001), while a musical version of Brighton Rock, created with lyricist Don Black, had its London premiere in 2004. He received a BAFTA fellowship in 2005.

  Don Black, 72, who worked with the composer on his Born Free, Thunderball and Diamonds are Forever theme songs, said Barry remained unaffected by his international success. “The thing about John that I will always remember was he never changed,” he said. “He was very much the Yorkshireman, whether he was in Beverly Hills or Manhattan.”

  Barry – who lived in Oyster Bay, Long Island – is survived by Laurie, his wife of 33 years, his four children and five grandchildren.

  According to Don Black, Barry’s widow Laurie is considering staging a major memorial service in London later this year. “She’s talking about the Albert Hall in June or July,” he said. “There will definitely be a big night coming.”

CLASSIC JOHN BARRY SCORES

  • From Russia With Love
  • Goldfinger
  • Zulu
  • Born Free
  • You Only Live Twice
  • The Lion in Winter
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Diamonds are Forever
  • Somewhere in Time
  • Out of Africa
  • Dances with Wolves
  • Chaplin

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