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John Barry

John Barry

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Also Known As: Jonathan Barry Prendergast,John Barry And His Orchestra Died: January 30, 2011
Born: November 3, 1933 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: York, England, GB Profession: Music ... composer musician arranger conductor projectionist
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BIOGRAPHY

One of the most decorated and respected composers of his generation, John Barry excelled at sweeping scores which added to the unique power of cinema, transporting viewers into the heart of the filmgoing experience. Rising to fame as an influential arranger and composer on the James Bond series, Barry composed 11 soundtracks, creating the soundscape of the Bond universe, which remained instantly recognizable for generations of filmgoers. He went on to achieve even greater cinematic immortality, creating the music and scores for such classics as "Born Free" (1966), "The Lion in Winter" (1968), "Midnight Cowboy" (1969) and "Somewhere in Time" (1980), but he was best remembered for his achingly romantic scores that helped turn "Out of Africa" (1985) and "Dances with Wolves" into such magical, evocative experiences. Over his 50-year career, Barry won a boatload of awards, including five Oscars, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and a Saturn Award, as well as a slew of nominations. Incredibly talented and well respected, Barry helped fuse the connection between modern moviemaking and music, and influenced generations of filmmakers and filmgoers who wept, laughed and loved to his inimitable musical landscapes. When he died in 2011, he had achieved a brilliant professional legacy as well as his own immortality through a life devoted to art and music.

Born Nov. 3, 1933 in York, England, John Barry Prendergast was the son of a classical pianist mother and a father who owned cinemas and theaters in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Not only were his love of movies and music forever intertwined, but as a boy he had the opportunity to meet the classical and jazz artists who played at his father's theaters. Educated at a Catholic convent school, Barry inherited his mother's gift as a classical pianist and began his musical education under the organist of York Minister. During his National Service years, he learned to arrange jazz and played the trumpet in the army band. Upon his discharge, the young man formed "The John Barry Seven," and the band earned a modicum of success with hits like "Black Stockings," as well as television appearances on programs like "Drumbeat" (BBC, 1959). Barry's television work allowed him entrée into the world of musical arrangement for a variety of singers, including up-and-coming popster Adam Faith. The two shared the same agent, and when Faith broke into films with "Beat Girl" (1960), Barry was tapped to compose, arrange and conduct the film's swinging score, the first soundtrack album to be released on an LP in the UK. His collaboration with Faith continued to pay off, and he had a major hand in the music of "Never Let Go" (1960) and "The Amorous Prawn" (1962), as well as producing and arranging albums first for EMI and then Ember Records.

His burgeoning reputation as a major talent put Barry in the crosshairs of the producers of the first James Bond film, "Dr. No" (1962). Although credit for penning the immortal "James Bond Theme" became a controversial issue between Barry and composer Monty Norman, Barry had a masterful hand in its birth and arrangement. Thirty years later, the matter would be debated in court, with Barry defending his contributions. His work on "Dr. No" laid the groundwork for producers to entrust Barry with the musical key to the James Bond franchise kingdom, and he helped define the unmistakable brassy horns and seductive, lush strings so identified with the series. In fact, Vic Flick, the John Barry Seven's lead guitarist, performed the famous Bond guitar riff. Responsible for scoring 11 James Bond films, Barry's signature touch could also be heard on the soundtracks of "From Russia with Love" (1963), "Goldfinger" (1964), "Thunderball" (1965), "You Only Live Twice" (1967), "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969), "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971), "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974), "Moonraker" (1979), "Octopussy" (1983), "A View to a Kill" (1985) and "The Living Daylights" (1987). Not only did his James Bond work earn him nominations for two Golden Globes - for Best Song for the title tracks of "From Russia with Love" and "A View to a Kill" - and a Grammy win for Best Original Score for "Goldfinger," but the albums themselves were successful on the charts.

Almost as much of a hot commodity as Agent 007 himself, Barry quickly found success scoring other movies, including the epic, sparse "Zulu" (1964), but a lioness named Elsa would inspire him to reach the pinnacle of his craft. "Born Free" (1966) told the story of an orphaned lioness cub, and the challenges faced by a couple's attempt to raise and return her to the wild. Barry's soaring, emotional title song for "Born Free" (1966) as well as his score earned him two Academy Awards, and the song became a beloved classic around the world. A very different lion, "The Lion in Winter" (1968), would provide Barry with another chance to beautifully underline the subject matter of a film to great effect. "Winter" starred Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn as the feuding King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Barry provided the powerhouse actors with a grandiose, gothic-tinged score that highlighted the undeniable human elements at stake in the familial struggle. At the height of his Bond popularity, Barry reminded audiences of his enormous range, and won another Academy Award for Best Original Music Score as well as a BAFTA for his work on "The Lion in Winter."

For supervising the music and composing the score for the controversial "Midnight Cowboy" (1969), Barry earned a Grammy for his melancholy but achingly romantic themes, pinned with the unmistakable sound of a harmonica. After composing the memorably catch theme to the TV show "The Persuaders" (ITV, 1971-72), Barry earned another Oscar nomination for the ethereal score for the Vanessa Redgrave/Glenda Jackson-starrer "Mary, Queen of Scots" (1972). After enjoying success with the hit musical "Billy" starring Michael Crawford, Barry moved to Majorca and took a year-long vacation. He traveled to Los Angeles to accept the invitation to score the TV movie "Eleanor & Franklin: The White House Years" (ABC, 1977) - which ended up earning him an Emmy nomination - and decided to stay in L.A. for almost five years because of how steadily his work assignments came in. Not all were destined to be classics, as Barry unfortunately scored the remake of "King Kong" (1976) and the cheesy thriller, "The Deep" (1977).

Barry created an all-time audience favorite when he crafted what was called some of the most romantic music ever composed with "Somewhere in Time" (1980), winning a Saturn Award as well as Golden Globe nomination. Drawing on a wealth of emotions sprung from the recent death of his father, Barry managed to capture the loneliness and longing of the film's characters (Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour), who fall in love after one accidentally travels back in time. The music helped an otherwise mediocre film transcend into a hauntingly poignant romance and cult film classic. Although he shockingly took home a Razzie for his score to "The Legend of the Lone Ranger" (1981), Barry rebounded with the sensual, pulsating "Body Heat" (1981), managing to evoke the nearly-palpable lust and deception between the noir's Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.

Although he continued to work steadily with "Frances" (1982), "The Cotton Club" (1984) and "Jagged Edge" (1985), Barry achieved perhaps his greatest film triumph with the sweepingly lush score for "Out of Africa" (1985). As much a character in the film as the spectacular geography of Africa and stars Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, Barry's score almost did not make Sydney Pollack's cut since the director originally envisioned using traditional African chants and music. Luckily for cinephiles everywhere, the dreamy music Barry produced helped elevate a sturdy film into something amazing: a piece of art as mysteriously powerful and irresistible as love itself. Despite another strange blip on the radar with 1986's cinematic travesty "Howard the Duck," Barry emerged unscathed and charmed with "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). Unfortunately, he suffered a rupture of the esophagus in 1988. Unable to work for two years, he returned with a vengeance, wowing critics with that year's Oscar-winning Best Picture, "Dances with Wolves" (1990). The Kevin Costner exploration of Native American life from an outsider-turned-insider's perspective was the perfect canvas for Barry to apply his evocative, stirring musical brush. Taking home another Oscar, as well as BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, Barry had produced another masterpiece; equal parts mystical and majestic, standing alongside the awe-inspiring scenery and Native American cultures as a vital element of the film's success.

Barry added Oscar and Golden Globe nominations to his résumé with his work on the biopic "Chaplin" (1992), and continued to work steadily, often saying that he was most attracted to subjects that dealt with loss, citing how indelibly living through the Nazi bombing raids in England had shaped him. Some of his later work included "Indecent Proposal" (1993), "Cry, The Beloved Country" (1995), "Swept from the Sea" (1997) and "Playing by Heart" (1998). A biography, John Barry - The Man with the Midas Touch was published in 2008. Married four times through the years, at the time of his death from a sudden heart attack, Barry, 77, left behind a wife, Laurie, of over 30 years as well four children and five grandchildren. Barry's daughter with model, actress and singer Jane Birkin, fashion photographer Kate Barry, committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of her Paris apartment on December 11, 2013.

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