Monday, 31 January 2011

BBC News - Bond composer John Barry dies aged 77

31 January 2011 Last updated at 08:57

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Bond composer John Barry dies aged 77

Composer John Barry, famous for his work on Born Free, Out of Africa and the James Bond films, has died in New York of a heart attack aged 77.

Born John Barry Prendergast in 1933, the York-born musician first found fame as leader of the John Barry Seven.

His arrangement of Monty Norman's James Bond theme led to him composing scores for 11 films in the series, among them Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.

His work saw him win five Oscars, while he received a Bafta fellowship in 2005.

His most recent film score featured in the 2001 war thriller Enigma, while a musical version of Brighton Rock, created with lyricist Don Black, had its London premiere in 2004.

Black, 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."

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  • 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

Awarded an OBE in 1999 for his services to music, Barry was renowned for his lush strings, orchestral swells and elegant melodies.

His work found a new audience when Robbie Williams featured music from You Only Live Twice on his 1998 hit single Millennium.

Current Bond film composer David Arnold paid tribute to his predecessor via Twitter.

"I am profoundly saddened by the news but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally," he said.

Barry's son-in-law, BBC business reporter Simon Jack, said he "truly loved writing music as much as people enjoyed listening to it".

"He saw himself as much a dramatist as a composer and his music was inextricably linked to the stories told on the screen."

Jack also remembered him as "a wickedly funny man" whose "passion, genius and sense of humour will be terribly missed by his family and friends".

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Born Free star Virginia McKenna said Barry was "a wonderful musician and composer".

Close friend Michael Crawford, meanwhile, said he had written "some of the most memorable and beautiful film scores we could ever wish to hear".

Barry's first Oscars came in 1967 for his Born Free score and its iconic title theme.

John Barry, pictured in 1967 He won Oscars for Born Free, The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves

More Academy Awards followed for the soundtracks he wrote for The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves.

Barry also won four Grammys, a Bafta for The Lion in Winter and a Golden Globe for Out of Africa.

His work for TV included the themes for Juke Box Jury and The Persuaders, while his non-soundtrack work included the albums Eternal Echoes and The Beyondness of Things.

In 2002 he was named an Honorary Freeman of the City of York, an honour he received at a venue in the city where he once used to play trumpet in the 1950s.

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

His family said funeral arrangements would be private and that a memorial service would be held in the UK later this year.


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  • 22. Crystal Ball
    59 Minutes Ago

    A giant among modern composers! Out of Africa and Midnight Cowboy showcase the variable depth and beauty of his work.
    A genius that will be sadly missed.

  • 21. Michael Gordon
    1 Hour Ago

    When I was 5 years old, I had a little plastic toy gun, that if you blew down the barrel end, made a sound a little bit like a kazoo. I'd march up and down the street parping out the theme to 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'. 35 years later I am a composer and in my spare time have re-recorded OHMSS and other Barry classics. Thank you John for profoundly influencing the course of my life. xx

  • 18. Gautam De
    1 Hour Ago

    His compositions are immortal. Who can ever forget the melodies of Born Free, Dances With Wolves and Out Of Africa? A great musician whose work used to mix as flesh and blood with the movies he worked for. I salute you Mr. Barry, for your great works and thank you, for presenting us so many beautiful music to accompany us whole life.

  • 17. David Werrett
    1 Hour Ago

    John Barry's music was instantly recognisable. He used lush strings to create the emotional atmosphere so necessary to accompany the films for which he was writing. His music will never be forgotten.

  • 15. Mark
    1 Hour Ago

    I grew up with John Barry's music and am saddened to learn of his death. What marked him out was not only an innate gift for writing melodies but his abilty, through his soundtracks, to penetrate to the heart of the story and thereby add an additional dimension to the film. His soundtrack to 'Ouf of Africa' exemplifies this best of all. He was unique in this regard and will be greatly missed.

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