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You probably know by now that John Barry, one of the legendary composers who brought much popularity to film music, has passed away.

As you probably also know, Barry was born John Barry Prendergast in York in 1933, son of Jack Xavier, who owned theatres and cinemas in the north of England. This, told Barry, is where he remembered being taken to see Mickey Mouse and falling in love with all things cinema. The story tells romantically, like a real life Cinema Paradiso experience.

Barry had an unconventional musical education, which probably explains why his music stands out as different. It's a journey that includes an Army band (the Green Howards), his rock n'roll combo (the John Barry seven), during which Barry discovered and launched the pop career of Adam Faith, and an apprenticeship in harmony and counterpoint at York Minster.

Though he already had a film score under his belt (Beat Girl, through the Faith connection), it was his skills as an arranger that caught the ear of Peter Hunt and got him hired onto Doctor No. The rest, as they say, is history. John Barry went on to be enormously popular through his sensational James Bond film scores, whilst also courting more serious critical acclaim through the British 'new wave' comedies, dramas and spy thrillers of the 1960s. This matured into an acceptance into Hollywood that tumulted with such major romantic film scores as Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves.

Barry was not into 'busy' music. He seemed much more interested in what could be sensually created in layers. He once told me that every layer of his famous Midnight Cowboy theme was musically very simple. It was in the interplay of those simple layers that the music came alive. Such is Barry's trademark. His style of setting simple melodies in concert with one another is evident in much of his work, most notably You Only Live Twice and Walkabout. He was also the grand master of themes. He wrote seductive, sensual, luxurious themes which worked like magic both on film, on soundtrack albums and in popular culture.

To this day, I never fail to marvel at the wondrous quality of his music. It glistens like gold.

Barry's fans include pop artists and other film composers. Even the great master Jerry Goldsmith once spoke of his admiration for Barry's unique abilities to really capture a film in music.

His song Goldfinger, written with Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, should, by itself, be enough to guarantee immortality. The fact there are so many more immortal themes in his canon, from The Ipcress File to The Persuaders to On Her Majesty's Secret Service and more, only cements that. The fact that films such as Midnight Cowboy, Walkabout and Somewhere In Time exhibit the marriage of film and music in its highest, most beautiful form, should cement it even more.

Today, perhaps it's easiest to remember his penchant for sad, melancholy music. Today, I'm reminded most of what I consider to be one of his greatest pieces. It's the end of the 1982 film, Frances. Frances and Harry meet, painfully separated by love that can't be. Barry's music, beautiful and sad, yet strangely optimistic, evoked tears. That's the kind of music I'm thinking of right now.

Rest in peace.

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Comments (22):Log in or register to post your own comments
Thanks Steve, nicely done.

Mike

Thanks Mike. It's an inadequate tribute, but today's Film Score Daily article just had to be a tribute to John Barry. Anything else just wouldn't have been right.

We must get together soon.

Steve, you have summed it all up perfectly. Well done. I'm still numb even though he has not in the best of health & am man enough to admit i had a little cry on the train this moning.

Dave

Dave, I will be in London this weekend. I wonder if you, me, and maybe a few others are able to align our schedules and drink a toast to the man.

And, I just read this tribute by Robert Townson. I like it much:

http://www.varesesarabande.us/

Cheers

Dave, I will be in London this weekend. I wonder if you, me, and maybe a few others are able to align our schedules and drink a toast to the man.


I wish I could be there for solidarity purposes, but we're going to see a new baby in the family in Leicester that day. The circle of life, hey.

Lovely tribute, Steve. I think we'll be reading many more in the days to come.

Dave, I will be in London this weekend. I wonder if you, me, and maybe a few others are able to align our schedules and drink a toast to the man.

And, I just read this tribute by Robert Townson. I like it much:

http://www.varesesarabande.us/

Cheers


Indefinably sad day. mad sadder by the heartfelt tributes on the websites around the world.
If it can be arranged, I would like to join you and others in toasting the great man in London this weekend.

I really feel very very very very sad right now...
Thank you for the gorgeous music, Maestro, R.I.P!

Well done steve. Nice.

Still have to ask to inject humor into this very sad occasion. "and spy thrillers of the 1960s. This matured into an acceptance into Hollywood that tumulted with such major romantic film scores as Out of Africa and Dances With Wolves." did you get caught by the magic 8 ball spell checking of ipad iPhone with "tumulted". Did you mean culminated???

Thanks Steve, I'm grateful for such touching article.

And three weeks ago I hoped that LLL can persuade Maestro to sign the first 100 CDs of their future release - alas, ways of the Lord are inscrutable...

I was listening to some Barry last night. How many of us became film music fans because of Barry's scores? Who could watch a Bond film and not notice the unforgettable themes? He was awesome and will be missed.

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