British composer John Barry, best known for providing the soundtrack to the James Bond films and winner of five Academy Awards, has died. He was 77.
“It is with great sadness that the family of composer John Barry announce his passing on Jan. 30, 2011 in New York,” his family said in a statement released by Bond production company EON Productions.
“Mr. Barry is survived by his wife Laurie of 33 years and his four children and five grandchildren.”
A private funeral will be held, with a memorial service to follow in Britain later in the year.
No cause of death was given but the BBC reported he died of a heart attack.
Barry scored 11 Bond movies, starting with “From Russia With Love” in 1963. According to EON, he was also brought in to arrange music already provided for “Dr. No” (1962), the first picture in the blockbuster series.
Fellow musicians paid tribute to Barry’s influence.
“I think James Bond would have been far less cool without John Barry holding his hand,” Bond composer David Arnold told BBC Radio.
Barry was born in York in 1933, and in an interview given nearly 10 years ago he recalled witnessing the effects of Nazi bombing raids on the northern English city in 1942. The experience was to have a profound effect on his music.
Asked in the interview what linked many of his most popular tunes, he replied:
“I’m strongly attracted to subjects that deal with loss: `Out of Africa,’ `Dances With Wolves,’ `Somewhere in Time.’ All these movies are about a sense of loss.
“I don’t know whether that comes from the World War. It leaves its mark. I don’t know how it couldn’t.”
Barry trained as a classical pianist but turned his attention to jazz and learned to play the trumpet.
In the late 1950s, he became leader of the John Barry Seven, which hired Vic Flick as lead guitarist. It was Flick who performed the famous James Bond guitar riff.
Barry began arranging music for singers on a television series, including Adam Faith, and composed the score for “Beat Girl” in which Faith appeared, in 1960. Two years later he was called in to collaborate on Dr. No.
He went on to become one of the most celebrated film composers of his generation.
Barry won Academy Awards for “Dances With Wolves”, “Out of Africa”, “The Lion in Winter” and two for “Born Free”. He also won four Grammys and received a BAFTA fellowship from the British film industry in 2005.