Famed film and stage composer John Barry passed away yesterday, January 30, of a sudden heart attack at the age of 77. He was best known for composing 11 James Bond soundtracks and helping to brand the 007 series' distinctive style. In a career spanning almost 50 years, Barry received four Grammy Awards and five Academy Awards; two for Born Free, and one each for The Lion in Winter (also won a BAFTA), Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves. Addition films include Midnight Cowboy, Born Free, and Somewhere in Time.
Barry was known for his distinct style which concentrates on strings and use of brass. He was one of the first to employ synthesizers in a film score (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), and to make wide use of pop artists and songs in Midnight Cowboy. Because Barry provided not just the main title theme but the complete soundtrack score, his music often enhanced 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 synthesizers. 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 Broadway's, 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".
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.