John Barry, James Bond Composer, Dies at 77

John Barry - At Piano - 1967
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The five-time Oscar winner also created the soundtracks for 'Midnight Cowboy,' 'Dances With Wolves,' 'Out of Africa' and 'Born Free.'


LONDON -- John Barry, a five-time Oscar-winning composer who wrote the music for 12 James Bond movies, died Sunday in New York after a heart attack, his family said. He was 77.

Barry, originally from Yorkshire, England, penned some of the most iconic film scores of the past 40 years,

He won two Oscars for Born Free (1966), for best score and best song, and also earned statuettes for the scores to The Lion in Winter (1968), Out of Africa (1985) and Dances With Wolves (1990).

Other credits include Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Chaplin (1992) — he received Oscar noms for both — Midnight Cowboy (1969), King Kong (1976), The Cotton Club (1984) and Howard the Duck (1986).

However, Barry be will best remembered for his long relationship with the Bond franchise, where he was responsible for the soundtrack to 007 movies including From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) and You Only Live Twice (1967).

His association with Bond began with Dr. No (1962), although his contribution to that film was not credited and is in dispute.

Monty Norman, who was credited as the composer for Dr. No, sued The Sunday Times in 2001 for reporting that Barry had composed the theme, working from scraps of Norman’s work. Norman won the case, collecting £30,000.

Barry testified that he was paid £250 to work on the theme music, developing the guitar line from part of Norman’s song “Bad Sign, Good Sign,” but agreed that Norman would get the credit. He was asked whether Norman wrote the theme and responded “absolutely not.”

In later years, Barry limited his comment on the case to saying, “If I didn’t write it, why did they ask me to do the other ones?”

One of the most respected film musicians in the world, Barry also was awarded an Order of the British Empire honor by the Queen in 1999 for his services to British music and a BAFTA fellowship in 2005.

Barry’s father was a cinema owner and his mother a classically trained pianist. His early career involved launching the John Barry Seven in 1957 and later working for EMI.

A statement released by his family said: “It is with great sadness that the family of composer John Barry announce his passing on the 30th of January 2011 in New York.”

His longtime friend and Bond collaborator David Arnold also posted a message on Twitter to Barry fans. “I am profoundly saddened by the news but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally.”

Barry was divorced three times. He is survived by his wife Laurie, his four children and five grandchildren. A private funeral was planned, the family said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.