John Barry

John Barry - ©

born on 3/11/1933 in York, England, United Kingdom

died on 30/1/2011 in Oyster Bay, NY, United States

John Barry (composer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
John Barry
Birth name John Barry Prendergast
Born November 3 1933
York, North Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Genre(s) Film score
Occupation(s) Composer, conductor
Years active 1959 - 2004

John Barry, OBE (born John Barry Prendergast on 3 November 1933 in York, England) is an English film score composer. He is best known for composing 11 James Bond soundtracks and was hugely influential on the 007 series' distinctive style.

Personal life

Barry was educated at St Peter's School, York, and also received composition lessons from Francis Jackson, Organist of York Minster. Living in his native England until the mid 1970s, Barry spent some time in Spain (for tax reasons) but has since lived in the United States, mainly in Oyster Bay outside New York.

Barry suffered a rupture of the oesophagus in 1988 following a toxic reaction to a health potion he had consumed. The incident rendered him unable to work for two years and left him vulnerable to pneumonia.

Barry has been married four times. His first three marriages ended in divorce: Barbara Pickard 1959-63; Jane Birkin 1965-68; and Jane Sidey 1969-71. He married his current wife, Laurie, on 3 January 1978. Barry has three children, one each from his first, second, and fourth marriages.


His family was in the cinema business which first sparked his musical interests. Although originally a classical pianist Barry also decided to learn the trumpet and started growing an interest for composing and arranging music. But it was during his National Service that he began performing as a musician. After taking a correspondence course (with jazz composer Bill Russo) and arranging for some of the bands of the day, he formed The John Barry Seven,[1] with whom he had some hit records, including "Hit and Miss", the theme tune he composed for the BBC's Juke Box Jury programme, and a cover of the Ventures' "Walk Don't Run". The career breakthrough for Barry was the BBC television series Drumbeat, when he appeared with The John Barry Seven and arranged for many of the singers, including Adam Faith; he also composed songs (along with Les Vandyke) and film scores on Faith's behalf. When Faith made his first film Beat Girl in 1960 Barry composed, arranged and conducted the score that was not only Barry's first film, but the first soundtrack album to be released on an LP in the UK. Barry also composed the music for another Faith film Never Let Go, orchestrated the score for Mix Me a Person, and composed, arranged and conducted the score for The Amorous Prawn.

Barry was employed by the EMI record company from 1959 until 1962 arranging orchestral accompaniment for the company's recording artists. From 1962 Barry transferred to Ember Records where he produced albums as well as arranging them.[2]

These achievements caught the attention of the producers of a new film called Dr. No who were dissatisfied with a theme for James Bond given to them by Monty Norman. Barry was hired and the result would be one of the most famous signature tunes in film history, the "James Bond Theme". (Credit goes to Monty Norman, see below.) When the producers of the Bond series engaged Lionel Bart to score the next James Bond film From Russia with Love, they discovered that Bart could not read or write music. Though Bart wrote a title song for the film, the producers remembered Barry's arrangement of the James Bond Theme and his composing and arranging chores for several films with Adam Faith. Lionel Bart also recommended Barry to producer Stanley Baker for his film Zulu.[3] Bart and Barry worked together in the film Man in the Middle.

This would be the turning point for Barry, and he would go on to become one of the most celebrated film composers of modern times, winning five Academy Awards and four Grammy Awards, with scores for, among others, The Lion in Winter, Midnight Cowboy, Born Free, and Somewhere In Time.

Barry is often cited as having a distinct style which concentrates on lush strings and extensive use of brass. However he is also an innovator, being one of the first to employ synthesisers in a film score (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and to make wide use of pop artists and songs in Midnight Cowboy. By providing not just the main title theme but the complete soundtrack score, Barry's music often enhances the critical reception of a film, notably in Midnight Cowboy, Out of Africa, and Dances with Wolves.

One of Barry's best known compositions is the theme for the 1971 TV series The Persuaders!, also known as "The Unlucky Heroes", in which Tony Curtis and Roger Moore were paired as rich playboys solving crimes. The score for the series was composed by Ken Thorne. The theme went on to be a hit single in some European Countries and has been re-released on collections of 1970s disco hits. The instrumental recording features Moog synthesisers. Barry also wrote the scores to a number of musicals, including Passion Flower Hotel (lyrics by Trevor Peacock), the successful West End show Billy (lyrics by Don Black) and two major Broadway flops, The Little Prince and the Aviator and Lolita, My Love, the latter with Alan Jay Lerner as lyricist.

During 2006, Barry was the executive producer on an album entitled Here's to the Heroes by the Australian ensemble The Ten Tenors. The album features a number of songs Barry wrote in collaboration with his lyricist friend, Don Black. Barry and Black also composed one of the songs on Shirley Bassey's 2009 comeback album, The Performance. The song entitled, "Our Time is Now", is the first written by the duo for Bassey since "Diamonds are Forever".[4]

In November 2008 a 300-page biography, John Barry - The Man With The Midas Touch, by Geoff Leonard, Pete Walker & Gareth Bramley, was published by Redcliffe Press, Bristol.

James Bond series

After the success of Dr. No, Barry scored eleven of the next 14 James Bond films (but with Monty Norman continually credited as the composer of The James Bond Theme).

In his tenure with the film series, Barry's music, variously brassy and moody, appealed to film aficionados, as witnessed in the sales of the soundtrack albums. For From Russia With Love he composed "007", an alternate James Bond signature theme, which is featured in four other Bond films (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker). The theme "Stalking", for the teaser sequence of From Russia With Love, was covered by colleague Marvin Hamlisch for the The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). (The music and lyrics for From Russia With Love's title song were written by Lionel Bart, whose musical theatre credits included Oliver!). Barry also (indirectly) contributed to the soundtrack of the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale: his Born Free theme appears briefly in the opening sequence.

In Goldfinger he would perfect the "Bond sound", a heady mixture of brass, jazz and sensuous melodies. There is even an element of Barry's jazz roots in the big-band track "Into Miami," which follows the title credits and accompanies the film's iconic image of the camera lens zooming toward the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.

As Barry matured, the Bond scores concentrated more on lush melodies, as in Moonraker and Octopussy. Barry's score for A View to a Kill was traditional, however his collaboration with Duran Duran for the title song was contemporary and one of the most successful Bond themes to date, reaching number one in the United States and number two in the UK Singles Chart. Both A View to a Kill and the 'Living Daylights theme by a-ha blended the pop music style of the artists with Barry's orchestration. In 2006 a-ha's Pal Waaktaar complimented Barry's contributions "I loved the stuff he added to the track, I mean it gave it this really cool string arrangement. That's when for me it started to sound like a Bond thing".[5]

Bond soundtracks worked on:

  • Dr. No (1962) — James Bond Theme used on main and end titles and Bond's arrival in Jamaica
  • From Russia with Love (lyrics by Lionel Bart) (1963), Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Song in a Motion Picture
  • Goldfinger (1964)
  • Thunderball (1965)
  • You Only Live Twice (1967)
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
  • Moonraker (1979)
  • Octopussy (1983)
  • A View to a Kill (1985), (Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score - Motion Picture & for Best Original Song - Motion Picture)
  • The Living Daylights (1987)

David Arnold, a British composer, saw the result of two years' work in 1997 with the release of Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project, an album of new versions of the themes from various James Bond films. Arnold thanks Barry in the sleeve notes, referring to him as "the Guvnor". Almost all of the tracks were John Barry compositions and the revision of his work met with his approval he contacted Barbara Broccoli, producer of the upcoming Tomorrow Never Dies, to recommend Arnold as the film's composer.[6] Arnold also went on to score the subsequent Bond films: The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Industry trade papers reported during the late 1980s that the studio decided to go for "a new sound", coinciding with Timothy Dalton assuming the role of James Bond (replacing the departing Roger Moore). This occurred after The Living Daylights, Dalton's first film in the series, which was Barry's last Bond score to-date.

Authorship of the "James Bond Theme"

Sole compositional credit for the "James Bond Theme" is attributed to Monty Norman, who was contracted as composer for Dr. No. However, Barry, while not publicly denying that, has implied otherwise. Some 30 years later, in 2001, authorial matters came to a head in the High Court in London after Norman sued The Sunday Times for publishing that claim in a 1997 article naming Barry as the true composer; Barry testified for the defence.[7]

In court, Barry declared he had been handed a musical manuscript of a work by Norman (meant to become the theme) and that he was to arrange it musically, and that he composed additional music and arranged the "James Bond Theme". The court also was told that Norman received sole credit, because of his prior contract with the producers. The verdict was that Monty Norman composed at least part and maybe all of the "James Bond Theme". How much, remains an open question.

On 7 September 2006, John Barry publicly defended his authorship of the theme on the Steve Wright show on BBC Radio 2.[8] The BBC issued an apology and removed the interview from their website.

Contemporary research indicates that Norman composed the bare notes of the tune, while Barry created the very distinctive orchestral arrangement. This is, among other things, based on the theme's strong resemblance to his previous music, like the song "Bee's Knees", and the fact that no other music in Dr. No sounds like the "James Bond Theme".

Awards and nominations

Five Academy Awards

  • 1967 Best Original Song for "Born Free" from Born Free
  • 1967 Best Original Music Score for Born Free
  • 1969 Best Original Music Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical) for The Lion in Winter
  • 1986 Best Original Score for Out of Africa
  • 1991 Best Original Score for Dances with Wolves

Academy Award nominations

  • 1972 Best Original Dramatic Score for Mary, Queen of Scots
  • 1993 Best Original Score for Chaplin


  • 1969 Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music for The Lion in Winter

BAFTA Fellowship Award

  • 2005

BAFTA nominations

  • 1987 Best Score for Out of Africa
  • 1992 Best Original Score for Dances with Wolves

Emmy Award nominations

  • 1964 Outstanding Achievement in Composing Original Music for Television for Elizabeth Taylor in London (a 1963 television special)
  • 1977 Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Special (Dramatic Underscore) for Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years

Barry was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998.

Other major film scores

  • Beat Girl (1960)
  • Never Let Go (1960)
  • The Cool Mikado (1962)
  • The Amorous Prawn (1962)
  • The L-Shaped Room (1962)
  • Man in the Middle (1963)
  • A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964)
  • Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)
  • Zulu (1964)
  • Boy and Bicycle (1965)
  • Mister Moses (1965)
  • Four in the Morning (1965)
  • The Party's Over (1965)
  • The Knack and How to Get It (1965)
  • King Rat (1965)
  • The Ipcress File (1965)
  • Born Free (1966) (Two Academy Awards - Best Music, Original Song (lyrics by Don Black), Best Music, Original Music Score, Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture)
  • The Chase (1966)
  • The Wrong Box (1966)
  • The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
  • The Whisperers (1967)
  • Dutchman (1967)
  • Boom! (1968)
  • Petulia (1968)
  • Deadfall (1968)
  • The Lion in Winter (1968) (Academy Award - Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture, BAFTA Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score)
  • The Appointment (1969)
  • Midnight Cowboy (1969) (Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Monte Walsh (1970)
  • They Might Be Giants (1971)
  • Murphy's War (1971)
  • Walkabout (1971)
  • The Last Valley (1971)
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) (Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score)
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972)
  • Follow Me! (1972)
  • A Doll's House (1973 Garland film) (1973)
  • The Tamarind Seed (1974)
  • The Dove (1974) (Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song)
  • The Day of the Locust (film) (1975)
  • King Kong (1976)
  • Robin and Marian (1976)
  • The Deep (1977) (Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Song - Motion Picture)
  • First Love (1977)
  • The White Buffalo (1977)
  • Game Of Death (1978)
  • The Betsy (1978)
  • Starcrash (1978)
  • Hanover Street (1979)
  • The Black Hole (1979)
  • Somewhere in Time (1980) (Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score - Motion Picture)
  • Touched by Love (1980)
  • Inside Moves (1980)
  • Night Games (1980)
  • Raise the Titanic (1980)
  • The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981 film) (1981) (Razzie Award for Worst Musical Score)
  • Body Heat (1981)
  • Frances (1982)
  • Murder By Phone (1982)
  • Hammett (1982)
  • The Golden Seal (1983)
  • High Road to China (1983)
  • The Cotton Club (1984)
  • Until September (1984)
  • Mike's Murder (1984)
  • Jagged Edge (1985)
  • Out of Africa (1985) (Academy Award - Best Music, Original Score, BAFTA Award nomination for Best Original Film Score)
  • Howard the Duck (1986)
  • A Killing Affair (1986)
  • The Golden Child (1986)
  • Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
  • Hearts of Fire (1987)
  • Masquerade (1988)
  • Dances with Wolves (1990) (Academy Award - Best Music, Original Score, BAFTA Award nomination for Best Original Film Score, Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score - Motion Picture)
  • Chaplin (1992) (Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Original Score, Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Original Score - Motion Picture)
  • Ruby Cairo (1993)
  • My Life (1993)
  • Indecent Proposal (1993)
  • The Specialist (1994)
  • Cry, The Beloved Country (1995)
  • Across The Sea of Time (1995) (3D IMAX movie)
  • The Scarlet Letter (1995)
  • Swept from the Sea (1997)
  • Mercury Rising (1998)
  • Playing by Heart (1998)
  • Enigma (2001)


  • Passion Flower Hotel (1965)
  • Lolita, My Love (1971), a musical comedy (text by Alan Jay Lerner) based on Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita
  • Billy (1974)
  • The Little Prince and the Aviator (1981)
  • Brighton Rock (2004)

Television themes

  • Dateline London (1962)
  • Elizabeth Taylor in London (Grammy award nomination) (1963)
  • Juke Box Jury (1959-1967)
  • The Human Jungle (1963-1965)
  • Impromptu (1964)
  • Sophia Loren in Rome (1964)
  • The Newcomers (TV series) (1965-1969)
  • Vendetta (1966) (1966)
  • The Persuaders! (1971-1972)
  • The Adventurer (1972-1973)
  • Orson Welles' Great Mysteries (1973)
  • The Glass Menagerie (1973)
  • Born Free (TV series) (1974)
  • Love Among the Ruins (film) (1975)
  • Eleanor and Franklin (1976)
  • Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977)
  • The War Between the Tates (1977)
  • Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy (1977)
  • The Gathering (1977 film) (1977)
  • The Corn is Green (1979)
  • Willa (1979)
  • Svengali (1983)
  • USA Today-The TV series (1988)
  • The Witness (1992)
  • John Barry-Moviola (1993)

Other works

  • Stringbeat (1961)
  • The Americans (1975)
  • The Beyondness of Things (1999)
  • Eternal Echoes (2001)
  • The Seasons - no release date set

Hit singles

  • "Hit And Miss" as The John Barry Seven plus Four, UK#10 (first charted 1960)
  • "Beat For Beatniks" as The John Barry Orchestra, UK#40 (1960)
  • "Never Let Go" as The John Barry Orchestra, UK#49 (1960)
  • "Blueberry Hill" as The John Barry Orchestra, UK#34 (1960)
  • "Walk Don't Run" as The John Barry Seven, UK#11 (1960)
  • "Black Stockings" as The John Barry Seven, UK#27 (1960)
  • "The Magnificent Seven" as The John Barry Seven, UK#45 (1961)
  • "Cutty Sark" as The John Barry Seven, UK#35 (1962)
  • "The James Bond Theme" as The John Barry Orchestra, UK#13 (1962)
  • "From Russia With Love" as The John Barry Orchestra, UK#39 (1963)
  • "Theme From 'The Persuaders'" as John Barry, UK#13 (1971)

The 4 highest-charting hits all spent more than 10 weeks in the UK top 50.


  2. The Ensemble Sospeso - John Barry
  3. Hall, Dr Sheldon Zulu: With Some Guts Behind It: The Making of the Epic Movie 2005 Tomahawk Press
  4. The Scotsman album review, November 2, 2009
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  7. Monty Norman v. The Sunday Times: The "James Bond Theme" Lawsuit. The John Barry Resource. Retrieved on 2006-11-24.
  8. John Barry On The Bond Theme. (2006-09-09). Retrieved on 2006-11-24.

External links

  • John Barry at the Songwriters' Hall of Fame
  • John Barry at the Internet Movie Database
  • John Barry - The Man With The Midas Touch
  • John Barry at The Danish Filmmusic Society (DFS)
  • Biography of John Barry
  • Official Somewhere In Time Website (INSITE)
  • Filmtracks' Tribute to John Barry
  • John Barry discography at
  • An account of the lawsuit concerning the authorship of the James Bond Theme
  • Cinema Retro attends John Barry concert in Ireland and meets the man himself
  • "The Man Who Knew the Score" by Bruce Handy. Vanity Fair online - January 8, 2009

Preceded by:
Monty Norman
Dr. No, 1962
James Bond title artist
From Russia with Love, 1963
Succeeded by:
Shirley Bassey
Goldfinger, 1964
Preceded by:
Nancy Sinatra
You Only Live Twice, 1967
James Bond title artist
On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 1969
Succeeded by:
Shirley Bassey
Diamonds Are Forever, 1971
Preceded by:
Monty Norman
James Bond film score composer
Succeeded by:
George Martin
Preceded by:
George Martin
James Bond film score composer
Succeeded by:
Marvin Hamlisch
Preceded by:
Marvin Hamlisch
James Bond film score composer
Succeeded by:
Bill Conti
Preceded by:
Bill Conti
James Bond film score composer
Succeeded by:
Michael Kamen
This page was last modified 13.04.2010 10:26:39

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