John Barry RIP – by Ian Johnson


If you like this please Tweet it, Facebook it or leave a comment

The sad news come through this morning that Oscar winning acclaimed British film composer John Barry OBE had died of a heart attack, aged 77.  He had been ill for some time. Barry not only changed film composition, by introducing a potent mix of crime jazz and rock ”˜n’ roll into movie scores, including the numerous James Bond scores he wrote, but he was also a pivotal figure in the birth of British rock ”˜n’ roll.

Born Jonathan Barry Prendergast in York 1933, Barry wanted to compose for films from a very young age.  A passion for cinema was inherited from his father, who ran a local chain of cinemas.  He was taught the basics of orchestration by a classical teacher at York minster and developed a love of jazz, in particular for the hard-edged swing of Stan Kenton’s band.

Having left school at 15, Barry joined a local dance band, The Modernaires, playing trumpet and writing his own compositions.  John Dankworth, one of the UK’s most successful bandleaders at the time, picked up on a piece he had written, played it, and Barry’s career began. In 1952, Barry was called up for National Service, and while serving in Egypt and Cyprus with the Green Howards, he continued playing the trumpet with a military band and studied the techniques of composition and arrangement through a correspondence course with Stan Kenton’s arranger, Bill Russo.

Demobbed in 1955, Barry returned to England.  American rock ”˜n’ roll had hit the UK and Barry instinctively understood this new sound, recognising that it was the future.  The composer formed his own group, The John Barry Seven, as a way to attract attention to his talents and pave the way for his film music career, but with hindsight their formation can be seen as the actual beginning of British rock ”˜n’ roll.  The Seven’s guitarist, Vic Flick, was the UK’s answer to Duane Eddy and his twanging guitar styling, coupled with Barry’s pulsating arrangements, laid the foundation for their success.

Extensive exposure on the television show Six-Five Special led John Barry to working with a young singer with acting ambitions ”“Adam Faith.  Barry gave Faith a huge hit in 1959, with his arrangement of an exuberant song called ”˜What Do You Want’. When Faith was offered a roll in the British cult classic Soho beatnik B-movie Beat Girl, Barry got the chance to write the contemporary score.  Mixing big band styling’s with Flick’s nervous guitar lines, Barry laid the foundations for a sound that would reverberate around the world with as much impact as The Beatles.

Barry’s 1962 arrangement of the ”˜James Bond Theme’, for the first Bond picture Dr. No, all swinging drums, grooving trombones, blaring trumpets and swaggering guitar, was a key moment in film scoring, influencing Morricone’s music for the Eastwood Dollar films and giving Barry “the longest job I ever had”¦ the most successful series of films ever made.”

From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and other unforgettable Bond scores followed, making Barry’s name synonymous with film soundtracks from the sixties into the seventies.  Zulu, The Ipcress File, Born Free, The Quiller Memorandum, The Chase and the beautiful choral music for the mediaeval period picture The Lion In Winter (for which he received his second Academy Award in 1968) were among the many great soundtracks he produced during this era.

Barry’s haunting harmonica theme for Midnight Cowboy, played with achingly stunning melancholy by Toots Thielman, marked a turning point in Barry’s career.  The ”˜James Bond Theme’ bridged his rock ”˜n’ roll career and film work, while Midnight Cowboy linked his sixties scores of highly emotional majestic scores of the seventies, eighties and nineties ”“ King Kong, Somewhere In Time, Chaplin, out of Africa, Dances With Wolves.

The term ”˜Barryesque’ has become a reference to the composer’s rich use of the string section and his work has influenced countless artists including Pulp, Portishead, Barry Adamson, Magazine, Orbital, Propellerheads, Duran Duran and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

John Barry’s work will continue to exert a huge influence upon contemporary music and film composition for a long-time to come.  John Barry RIP.

Copyright © Ian Johnston

Categories

Blogs News

The Author

Words by

Share and comment

7 comments on “John Barry RIP – by Ian Johnson”

Leave a comment?
  1. typhus jacksons brignore schoeber corinna heatter distil fits farelli

  2. Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…”

  3. Whats up very cool site!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Wonderful .. I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also¡KI am glad to seek out a lot of useful information here within the submit, we’d like work out more strategies in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  4. As a Newbie, I am permanently searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

  5. This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ‘Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of “neighbors” will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune “Social” is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  6. A person necessarily help to make seriously posts I’d state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and so far? I surprised with the analysis you made to create this actual submit amazing. Excellent process!

  7. I’ll immediately clutch your rss as I can’t to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please permit me know so that I may subscribe. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Your Tickets At Skiddle

To buy tickets for our events please visit: Skiddle.

Tickets by Skiddle