James Bond Composer John Barry Dies at 77

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British composer John Barry poses with the BAFTA Fellowship award


Composer John Barry, best known for the James Bond theme, has died of a heart attack in New York. He was 77.

Barry was born in York, England in 1933 but lived in Oyster Bay, New York, with his wife of 33 years, Laurie. He completed his National Service as an Army bandsman in Cyprus and Egypt and started composing as the leader of the band the John Barry Seven, which he formed in 1957.

His impressive musical career spanned five decades; from the orchestral arrangement of Monty Norman’s theme for Dr. No (1962), which was adopted as the James Bond theme for all subsequent films, to his most recent work with 2001’s Enigma and the 2004 musical adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock with Don Black.

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The real gem in Barry’s career came when he composed the unforgettable score and theme for Born Free, the 1966 film which bagged Barry the Oscar for original score and best song, a Golden Globe for best original score and a Grammy for best song. Barry then went on to win Oscars for The Lion in Winter (1968), Out of Africa (1985) and Dances with Wolves (1990).

One of the most decorated movie composers in history, Barry was also awarded a BAFTA, another Golden Globe, and several Emmy nominations. In 1998 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 1999 was awarded an OBE for his services to music.

Barry composed music for 11 of the 22 Bond films; Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds are Forever (1971), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Moonraker (1979), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985) and The Living Daylights (1987).

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David Arnold, the current James Bond composer, told the BBC, “There’s a beautiful phrase: ‘If something is written from the heart, it goes to the heart.’ That’s what it felt like when I heard John Barry’s music for the first time. I saw my first Bond movie, You Only Live Twice, when I was about eight years old. It was the moment I realized what I wanted to do – to be in a dark room and hear that sound. Today, everyone is saying the same thing. He was the governor and it’s a sad and profound loss.”

Watch John Barry conduct his orchestral arrangement of the James Bond theme in 2001. (Via BBC)