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John Barry, 1933-2011

January 30, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

John BarryComposer John Barry died on January 30, 2011, at his home in Oyster Bay, New York, after suffering a heart attack. He was 77.

John Barry Prendergast was born in York, England in November 1933, where his father owned a chain of cinemas. He played the organ at York Minster and, after spending some time as a classical pianist, formed a jazz band, The John Barry Seven in 1957. The Seven had a number of popular instrumental hits in the UK, including a cover of “Walk Don’t Run” and the theme from the TV show Juke Box Jury, “Hit and Miss”, before moving into cinema.

Barry made his film music composing debut in 1960 writing music for the Adam Faith film Beat Girl at the age of 27, before establishing himself as a major force in the British film industry when he wrote the score for the second James Bond film, From Russia With Love, in 1963. Barry wrote music for 10 more Bond films, including Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever, while simultaneously establishing himself as one of the pre-eminent composers in American and British film from the 1960s through to the early 1980s through popular and successful films such as Zulu, Born Free. The Lion in Winter, Midnight Cowboy, Walkabout, King Kong, Robin and Marian, The Black Hole, Somewhere in Time and Out of Africa.

After something of a slump in the late 1980s, when his lush and symphonic style went out of vogue, and a brief battle against a life-threatening esophageal rupture, Barry wrote the most acclaimed score of his career in 1990 with Dances With Wolves. The latter period of his career was defined by a series of broad romantic scores, notably Chaplin, Indecent Proposal and The Scarlet Letter, but health issues began to take their toll, and he did not write another film score after Enigma in 2001.

Barry won five Academy Awards during his career – for the song and score for Born Free in 1966, The Lion in Winter in 1968, Out of Africa in 1985, and Dances With Wolves in 1990 – as well as one Golden Globe Award, two BAFTA Awards, and four Grammy Awards.

He was indicted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998, and was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award in 2005. He leaves behind his fourth wife, Laurie, and four children, Suzy, Kate, Sian and Jonpatrick. Suzy was born to his first wife, Barbara Pickard; Kate to his second wife, actress Jane Birkin, and Sian to Swedish model Ulla Larson.

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