Tributes to John Barry, the man with the Midas touch for movie music

The skill of a great film composer is to marry moving images with sound in such a way that they seem organically linked. Yesterday the superlative John Barry united film and music one last time, as figures from both circles offered tributes to his career on the news of his death at 77.

Mr Barry, who died of a heart attack in his adopted home city of New York, played a vital part in establishing the James Bond films in the public imagination. There was far more to his career than the spy movie franchise, however. He won a total of five Oscars for his work on Dances With Wolves, Out Of Africa, The Lion In Winter and Born Free, for which he won two.

Many of his most famous and evocative scores were written in the 1960s during the age of Beatlemania, a phenomenon of which James Bond clearly disapproved. Sean Connery, playing Bond in Goldfinger, states: "There are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That's just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs."

Yet prior to his film-scoring career, Mr Barry had considerable success with his own pop group, the John Barry Seven, which he formed in 1957. And while his first passion was classical music – his idol was Gustav Mahler – together with lyricists such as Don Black and Leslie Bricusse he composed grand orchestral melodies that were still catchy enough to create some of the decade's most memorable pop songs. Thunderball remains one of the most popular numbers in Tom Jones' repertoire, while You Only Live Twice – featuring Nancy Sinatra – proved so timeless that it was sampled prominently in Robbie Williams' number one single Millennium more then 30 years later.

Yesterday Tim Rice paid tribute to this versatility, saying: "He made these great rock 'n' roll records and then you heard these symphonic works as well."

Born in York in 1933, Barry was the son of a former concert pianist and the owner of a small chain of cinemas. His youth was therefore steeped in piano music and the movies, before he discovered jazz in his teens and took up the trumpet. He began arranging music during his two years of national service with the army, and on being asked to score his first movie in 1960 found he had a natural talent.

Don Black, who wrote the lyrics for Born Free, told The Independent that the death of the man he considered one of his best friends for the past 50 years came as a shock. "He was a bit fragile the last year – he was never very robust anyway – but he wasn't ill," he said.

Black fondly remembers the John Barry of his youth, who bore more than a passing resemblance to the Bond man-about-town and over long lunches tended to consume more alcohol than food.

"In his hell-raising days he used to drink too much and I used to end up taking him home, though that hadn't happened for the last 30 years. He used to have lots of beautiful women and fancy cars and all of that. He was a handsome, eligible bachelor, very vibrant and very attractive with that Yorkshire accent. I don't know who you'd liken him to – the George Clooney of his day, I suppose."

But Black said the four-times married Barry remained true to his roots. "He never changed, he was still the boy from Yorkshire all the way through. There was nothing New York about him, even though he'd lived there for 40 years. He'd never been to a deli or had a pickle or had a big sandwich – he was still a lad who liked fish and chips with vinegar on the side."

Black worked on many songs with Barry. "He would go away and say, 'Come in Wednesday and I'll be ready with that tune'. By then he had been through every kind of emotion in writing it and it had been vetted to an inch of its life. So when he said, 'Here it is', it was more like an unveiling."

David Arnold, who succeeded Barry as the main Bond composer in recent years, told the BBC: "It's impossible to separate James Bond from John Barry's music. They went hand in hand. He was able to show you the menace, the sexiness, the aggression and the emotion.

"Everything that is cool and fabulous about James Bond is in the music. You could be stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 in a Ford Fiesta, but if you're playing a John Barry score you're in an Aston Martin. It was just an extraordinary, transfigurative thing he did."

John Barry 1933-2011

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

"He was able to catch the mood of a scene or a whole film by the genius of orchestration with fairly conventional instruments. Film seemed to bring out the very best in him." - Sir Tim Rice

Out of Africa (1985)

"When he played you a melody it was like an unveiling. You didn't question it because you knew he had been up all night working on it." - Don Black (lyricist)

Goldfinger (1964)

"I think James Bond would have been far less cool without John Barry holding his hand." - Current Bond composer David Arnold

Born Free (1966)

"He wrote some of the most memorable and beautiful scores we could ever wish to hear." - Michael Crawford

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015