Ed Driscoll

Composer John Barry Dies at Age 77

Very sad to hear of Barry’s passing; the age is too young, but the numbers are certainly appropriate for the man who helped give James Bond his classic aural signature.

The BBC reports:

Composer John Barry, famous for his work on Born Free, Midnight Cowboy and the James Bond films, has died aged 77 of a heart attack.

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.

Barry’s arrangement and subsequent embellishments of Norman’s original tune over the years become a perfect example of a piece of music instantly defining a cinematic character:

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Though I also loved “007,” the other theme for the character that Barry himself wrote for Bond that popped up occasionally, beginning with From Russia With Love. It really swings at times, and is the perfect music for demolishing production designer Ken Adams’ equally iconic underground multi-million dollar SPECTRE hideouts:

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Barry later wrote and arranged “We Have all the Time in the World” for George Lazenby’s one-off 1969 outing as Bond in the underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Ironically enough, given the title, it was sung by Louis Armstrong only a couple of years before Armstrong himself passed away; it’s a beautiful performance all around:

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In later years, Barry’s work would be sampled and mashed-up into new recombinant formulas. Note the moody harp passage from Goldfinger that runs throughout “6 Underground,” a hit for the British “trip-hop” group Sneaker Pimps from 1996. Used a year later in another secret agent film, the big-screen version of The Saint, the Bond sample added wonderful atmosphere — and hopefully royalties to Barry’s coffers:

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