James Bond composer John Barry has died

The BBC is reporting this morning that one of our greatest composers, John Barry, has died at the age of 77 of a heart attack.

For James Bond fans this is a particular blow, as Barry is the man who brought us the distinctive arrangement of Monty Norman’s Bond theme on 1962’s Dr No and scores for 11 of the movies. His lush orchestral work on pictures such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice stand as high points in both his career and cinema history, his compositions defining the sound of the espionage genre for generations of cinema-goers.


Barry also worked on dozens of non-Bond features, such as Midnight Cowboy, Robin and Marian, Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa, while giving us the memorable themes to TV shows such as Juke Box Jury and The Persuaders.

The tributes will no doubt start flowing very soon, but one of the first came from Barry’s heir to the Bond music throne, David Arnold, who wrote on his Twitter feed: “It was with a heavy heart that I tell you John Barry passed away this morning. I am profoundly saddened by the news but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally.”

Oddly enough, today sees the release of two films on DVD here in the UK featuring his work.

First up there’s What a Whopper from 1961, in which Adam Faith writes a book about the Loch Ness Monster, while 1968’s Deadfall is a Michael Caine heist movie with a twist (well, a few twists really). I’m not sure if they offer the best tribute to Barry, but they certainly show his diversity.

I’ve probably listened to Barry’s Bond scores more than any other albums, with the re-releases of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever and The Living Daylights, which came out a few years back, never far from my CD player/iPod.

If you don’t own the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service soundtrack then I’d recommend heading over to iTunes to rectify the situation.


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