Monday, January 31, 2011

Scoreobit: John Barry

John Barry, who scored 11 James Bond movies and Born Free, has died after a long period of ill-health.

Born John Barry Prendergast, his key musical decision point came when he started his national service. Knowing a little bit of trumpet, Barry elected to join the army band. Here, he learned how to arrange music. When those adverts say the army will teach you skills for life, they seldom mention that it could include teaching you how to become on the preeminent film composers of your generation, do they?

After the army, he formed his own band, the John Barry Seven, who achieved a level of success but it was an invitation to provide a score for Dr No, the first of the Bond franchise movies, which really made him.

Dr No wasn't his first movie soundtrack - he'd written for a number of films before, starting with 1959's Beat Girl - but his work for Bond made him. Heavily in demand, he'd write for The Knack, The Ipcress File, Born Free, Midnight Cowboy and The Black Hole. He wrote for so many soundtracks, we'd bet even he had forgotten some of them - Young Joe The Forgotten Kennedy, anyone?

He also wrote for theatre and TV, and created a musical based on Brighton Rock. Graham Greene had helped out on that project, writing a few lyrics; Barry had had the delicate task of explaining to Greene that his words weren't up to snuff.

Barry's last film score was for 2001's Enigma. He died yesterday following a heart attack; he was 77.