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John Barry - Obituary
50 Years of Movie Music Magic
To access a YouTube compilation of some of John Barry's film themes to play in the background whilst you read this... click here
John Barry - listen to his music - click here
John Barry, Composer
3rd November 1933 -
30th January 2011

"Bond... James Bond"
Before I settled down to write about John Barry, I clicked the Spotify icon on my computer desktop and, scanning the search results for John Barry, clicked together a play list of his music.

From the opening bars of the first James Bond theme, I was sliding, unstoppable, down memory lane, as film theme after iconic film song, played in the background and I realised how much a part of my "baby-boomer" life could be chronicled by John Barry's music.

Dr No - the first Bond Movie - to pop up a video of the original 1962 trailer - click here
The first Bond movie - to view the original 1962 trailer, with the its first airing of the Bond theme, arranged by John Barry, click the image above

Hooked... Line and Sinker
It began, for me, in 1962… the moment the lights dimmed and the opening sequence started, I was interested… very. When SHE walked out of the Caribbean and into the psyche of a generation, I was hooked... very excitable 15 year-old that I was!

Dr. No - click the image to view this famous scene
Ursula Andress from that memorable scene from Dr. No
- click the image to view the video sequence-

Shirley Eaton and Sean Connery - Goldinger

By the time Shirley Eaton fired my adolescent imagination with her golden death-skin and Shirley Bassey belted out her famous interpretation of his Goldfinger theme, John Barry’s rise to fame was ensured as Bond became a must-see, with movie after movie transformed by his haunting melodies. Bond was with us… forever... and so was John Barry's music.

Jane Birkin
Jane Birkin, John Barry's second wife

Je t'aime
I also remember, however, that I never really forgave him for marrying Jane Birkin, whose memorable “Je t’aime” kept many a teenager glued to their transistor, tuned to Radio Luxembourg, long after lights-out”! But then John, married four times, always did seem to get the girl!

An Essential Part of Bond
Whilst aware of the John Barry Seven, I was firmly entrenched in the 60’s music revolution and the Beatles, Dave Clark 5, The Kinks, Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys (I had an American girlfriend!) etc were my daily fare, but when it came to the cinema… well James Bond was Sean Connery and John Barry’s Bond theme was… well, Bond. Even though there was early controversy over the originator of the Bond theme, there can be no doubt that it was Barry, over the next 40 odd years and 11 more Bond movies, that took those few simple opening bars, to craft the ultimate franchise theme music… always instantly recognisable, always subtly different. Always, in all its variations, an essential part of the Bond movie experience.

There can be few people “d’un certain age” in the western world (and beyond), that cannot whistle or hum the Bond theme… few kids of a generation that didn’t cry accompanied by his lilting, heart-string tugging Born Free theme. (click here to listen and watch the trailer for Born Free)

Early Beginning
Born in 1933, film became a part of his life at a very early age, as his father owned a chain of cinemas… the young John Barry was no stranger to the projection room. Coupled with the musical bent of his parents (his mother was a pianist and they also put on concerts in their cinema auditoriums) it is, perhaps, no great surprise that he went on to use this experience in his choice of career. From early beginnings as a national service army bandsman, through arranging music for others, to forming his own band, The John Barry Seven in 1957, he was firmly on his way to recognition. An early success with Adam Faith’s “What Do You Want If You Don’t Want Money?" in 1959, led to his first film commission to write the music for the Adam Faith vehicle, Beat Girl. This went on to become the first Film Theme record released in Britain.

Hall of Fame
Moving to Hollywood (some say, only just ahead of the pursuing Inland Revenue), Barry went on to become the highest paid and most sought after music composer in Hollywood. His credits, read like an encyclopaedia of late 20th Century movies. Landmark blockbuster after Oscar winning film, bore his musical brand and it comes as no surprise that he won no less than 5 Oscars and the first ever BAFTA Fellowship awarded to a composer.

John Barry was awarded the O.B.E. (Civil) - (Order of the British Empire) - in 1999 "For services to Music".

John Barry - the first composer in BAFTA history, to receive a Fellowship - click to view the presentsation
John Barry receives his BAFTA Fellowship Award
- click to the image above to view the presentation -

John Barry died in New York on 30th January 2011 at the age of 77. He is survived by his fourth wife of 33 years Laurie, his four children and five grandchildren.

Thank you for the music.

Links to Further Information on John Barry
Video - John Barry receives his BAFTA Fellowship
John Barry's lyricist, Don Black, remembers his friend
Wikipedia on John Barry
Spotify - free music whilst you work or surf

Story: Chris McCready

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