Tributes to John Barry, the man with the Midas touch for movie music - News - Music - The Independent

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
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week