It’s with great sadness that we report that John Barry, gentleman, scholar and towering figure in his field has died of a heart attack after a prolonged period of ill health, aged 77.
Film composer, arranger and conductor, Barry’s work saw him win 5 Oscars during his career and be awarded a slew of additional honours including an OBE, the Bafta Fellowship and the French honour, Commander in the National Order of Arts and Letters. He is probably best known for his scoring of eleven of the Bond films but was additionally acclaimed for his work on such iconic movies as Zulu, Born Free, Midnight Cowboy, The Lion In Winter, They Might Be Giants, The Ipcress File, Out Of Africa, Dances With Wolves, The Cotton Club, Jagged Edge and especially memorably, for Chaplin.
He was born in Yorkshire in 1933, the youngest of three siblings. His father owned several local cinemas and by the time Barry was in his teens he was running the projection box of the The Rialto in York almost single handedly. These formative years spent immersed in cinema were to have a profound and lasting effect.
He had studied both piano and trumpet as a youth but it was only during his period of National Service and after playing with various jazz bands that he formed the John Barry Seven. The band signed a contract with EMI in 1957 and secured a number of small hits which then saw him begin arranging and conducting for other artists on the label, ultimately arranging the Monty Norman score for the first Bond film Dr No.
His work has been sampled on literally hundreds of occasions and influences multiple musicians to this day. The current Bond film composer David Arnold paid tribute to his predecessor and mentor.
“I am profoundly saddened by the news but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally,” he said.
Colleague and friend, the director Richard Attenborough was quoted as saying of Barry, “He’s never satisfied with what he does. Every day he wakes up and believes that into his mind and soul is going to come some magical arrangement of notes that he’s going to ultimately either entrance you with in a concert hall or cinema. It’s because he thinks there’s still a peak to climb that he’s a great film music composer.”
Many more tributes are expected to be paid over the next few days to his remarkable talent, good humour and inherent professionalism.