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For a Fistful of Euros: Did Ennio Morricone Cheat Guitarist Behind Famous Spaghetti Western Riffs?

Good Bad Ugly - H 2013
Clint Eastwood in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'

The daughter of Pino Rucher alleges her father, now deceased, was denied the proper credit for guitar solos for three classic film soundtracks written by Ennio Morricone.

ROME – Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone will be called into court based on charges from the daughter of guitarist Pino Rucher, who says Morricone did not give her father proper credit for guitar solos her performed on three of Morricone’s best-known soundtracks. She’s asking for €800,000 ($1.1 million) to compensate for the oversight.

According to an article in the Wednesday’s edition of La Repubblica, Maria Rucher alleges that the famous and easily recognizable guitar solos in Morricone’s compositions for the soundtracks of Spaghetti Western classics A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly -- all starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Sergio Leone -- were the sole creations of her father, who died 17 years ago at the age of 72. 

In the credits, the performances of those compositions are credited equally to Rucher and fellow band mates Enrico Ciacci (the brother of well-known Italian singer Little Tony), Alessandro Alessandroni, and Bruno Battisti D’Amario. Morricone has  not issued a statement in connection to the charges.

The elder Rucher was a noted jazz guitarist and musical arranger who collaborated regularly with Morricone, Leone, and other cinema and music industry figures starting in the 1940s and until he retired in 1983. Among his professional accomplishments, he is credited with being the first to play an electric guitar on the soundtrack for a cowboy film.

There is no indication why Maria Rucher waited 17 years after the death of her father -- and 47 years after the last of the three films in question first appeared in cinemas -- to make her allegations. According to Italian legal experts, contemporary intellectual property laws are much tougher than those in place in the 1960s, which would help Rucher’s case. But there would have to be some more recent development or the case could run the risk of being thrown out because of statute of limitation rules.

This is the second time in two months that the 84-year-old Morricone has been in the headlines: in March he told a group of students at Rome’s LUISS University that he would never work with U.S. director Quentin Tarantino again after their minor collaboration on Django Unchained, saying the director “places music in his films without coherence.” Morricone later said the comments had been taken out of context and that he was just making the point that using only parts of songs means that what movie goers hear “is not always consistent with the entire work.”

Though Morricone has composed the soundtracks for more than 500 films in a career that dates to 1959, he is showing no signs of slowing down: he is currently working on three films, including Leningrad, the long-awaited World War II drama from Oscar winning Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore.

Morricone’s star-studded career has resulted in five Oscar nominations for best Musical Score -- for Days of Heaven (1978), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Bugsy (1991), and Melena (2000) -- and he was given an honorary Oscar for “contributions to the art of film music” in 2007.

Twitter: @EricJLyman