Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Remembering Oscar Winning Composer John Barry

British film composer John Barry famous for his musical talents on the James Bond series has died of a heart attack at the age of 77. Born in New York in 1933, Barry was also most famous for his work on such films as Zulu, Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves.

The well-known composer was born John Barry Prendergast in York, who was the son of a Cork man who grew up with the cinema as his father was a projectionist. His career in music begun under the watch of the organist of York Minister. He learnt to arrange music whilst on National Service and played Trumpet in an army band. He later formed a jazz-rock group in the 1950’s called the John Barry Seven.

His arrangement of Monty Norman’s James Bond theme tune led him to compose a total of 11 of the Bond movies including fans-favourite Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever and Moonraker. Barry was renowned for his use of lush strings, orchestral swells stylish melodies. He worked with the likes of Richard Attenborough, Sean Connery and Sydney Pollack.

His prestigious career included him receiving 5 Oscars, in 1999 he was awarded an OBE for his services to music and in Bafta fellowship back in 2005. His first Academy Award came after his musical efforts for Born Free winning Best Score and Best Song in 1967.

He also focused his work on Television with working on series and advertisements before he broke into movie work with Beat Girl in the 1960’s. Some of his last work came in films such as Madagascar, Enigma, Playing by Heart and Mercury Rising.

The current James Bond composer David Arnold fittingly announced this morning on Twitter, “It was with a heavy heart that I tell you John Barry passed away this morning.” Arnold later told on BBC radio, “I think James Bond would have been far less cool without John Barry holding his hand.”

The composer told in a Guardian interview in 1999 of his love for film, "My father had eight theatres in the north of England. I remember him picking me up, age three and a half, and taking me through these swing doors to the back of the stalls and holding me up over the barrier at the back. And I remember seeing this mouse, this big black and white mouse.” 

The British composer won an Oscar for his work on Born Free with leading actress Virginia McKenna said he was “A wonderful musician and composer.” Barry, who lived in Long Island leaves his wife Laurie of 33 years, his four children and five grandchildren. According to his family, the funeral arrangements remain private. A memorial service will be held in the UK later this year.

Written By Michael Cunneen

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