John Barry, the iconic and legendary music composer, passed away on January 31, 2011 after suffering a heart attack at his New York home. The five time Academy Award winning composer had a career spanning over fifty years, where he created some of the most memorable film scores in cinema history.
He will be forever remembered as the composer of the James Bond film franchise. He scored twelve of the first fifteen James Bond films, including “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball”, “Moonraker”, and “Octopussy”. Though not officially credited with creating the renowned James Bond theme, Barry is known to have taken the theme, arranged it, and composed additional music to make it what it is remembered for today. In 2001, authorial matters surrounding the “true composer” to the James Bond theme went to High Court in London, with Barry attempting to receive partial credit as the composer. However, the jury ruled in favor of Monty Norman, who had been credited as the sole composer of the James Bond film since the first movie.
Though he will forever be remembered for his James Bond scores, it was his work outside of the franchise that provided him with the greatest critical acclaim and awards for his work. Barry won his first Oscars for both Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Original Song for “Born Free”, the story of a game warden and his wife in Kenya who raise a lion cub in captivity, but must re-train the lion for living in the wildlife once it reaches adulthood. His next Oscar win would come only two years later for his work on “The Lion in Winter”. It would be seventeen years before he would win another Oscar, but in that time he would go one to create unforgettable scores for Midnight Cowboy, Walkabout, King Kong, The Deep, and Body Heat to name a few.
In 1986, Barry once again rose to Oscar prominence with his winning soundtrack to Out of Africa, considered by many to be one of the best movie soundtracks ever. It was voted the 15th greatest movie soundtrack of all time by the American Film Institute as part of their 2005 salute to film scores. Barry would receive his final Oscar five years later in 1991 for his score to Dances with Wolves. The score to Dances with Wolves would also provide Barry with his only Grammy win (he had been nominated twice before for “Born Free” and “Goldfinger”).
Barry’s longevity and legacy in the film and music industry are a testament to the beautiful and superb film scores he created. Many of his films are identified by his musical compositions, and will continue to be for years to come. John Barry is a true icon of the industry. He will be missed. Now you can experience 26 of his memorable scores in our collection for Remembering John Barry.