John Barry (Composer)

Name: John Barry
Date of Birth: 3rd November 1933
Place of Birth: Kent, UK
Date of Death: 31st January 2011
Years active: 1958-2009
Profession: Composer, conductor, score producer, music arranger
Bond films: 12
Also famous for: "Born Free", "Midnight Cowboy", "Dances with Wolves"

Born in as John Barry Prendergast, Barry attended nearby St Peter's School and grew up in a family already in the film business.

The young Barry trained as a classical pianist before developing an interest in jazz and deciding he wished to learn to play the trumpet.

Not long after deciding he wanted to make music his full time occupation, Barry took a course run by the famed Bill Russo, an American jazz musician, and founded the John Barry Seven in '57.


Above: John Barry in 2006

Together with Mike Cox (tenor-sax), Derek Myers (alto-sax), Ken Golder (drums), Fred Kirk (bass guitar), Ken Richards (lead guitar) and Keith Kelly (rhythm guitar), John Barry began his professional music career. The group would become known simply as JB7. In 1961 the slick guitarist Vic Flick joined Barry's grouping and he would go on to perform the now-famed James Bond guitar riff.

JB7 appeared on the BBC's "Drumbeat" show and Barry made the acquaintance of Adam Faith. Faith recommended Barry for his first cinema composing job, the seemingly B-movie "Beat Girl" which would star Christopher Lee, David Farrar and of course Adam Faith.

Shortly after this Barry would receive the fateful phone call from Bond producer Harry Saltzman. "I got a phone call from Harry," recalled Barry in a 2006 article in the Telegraph. "He never used to come down to the recording sessions, and he says: 'John, that is the worst f***ing song I ever heard in my life. We open in three weeks' time, otherwise I'd take that f***ing song out of the picture. I'd take it out! Out!'"

Little did Saltzman know that Barry would be able to arrange the James Bond Theme to become a haunting and timeless melody. His work performing, conducting and arranging the Bond theme would earn Barry the opportunity to head up the music department of EON for "From Russia With Love". Barry would hold this position for six consecutive Bond films before bowing out for Roger Moore's first adventure "Live And Let Die". Meanwhile, Barry would also work on Saltzman-produced "The Ipcress File" (1965), compose the memorable theme to Born Free (1966) with Don Black and and score the '70s screen adaptation of Lewis Carol's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" which starred soon-to-be Bond girl Fiona Fullerton.

After 11 Bond films as composer, Barry concedes that enough is really enough, saying there was nothing he could do for Bond after "The Living Daylights" and recommended to Cubby Broccoli that it was time for some fresh blood. The Barry-Broccoli partnership ended gracefully, with, some years later, John contacting Cubby's daughter and producer of the Bond pictures, Barbara Broccoli with a suggestion that young David Arnold should have the chance to compose a Bond soundtrack. Arnold was, of course, given this opportunity on "Tomorrow Never Dies".

In 2008 a collaborative biography was released: "John Barry - The Man With The Midas Touch", to celebrate the work of the legendary film composer.

In 2009, John Barry worked with his successor in the Bond franchise, David Arnold who was producing a new studio album for Shirley Bassey. Barry was called on to pen one final ballad for the three-time Welsh 007 title-song artist.

John Barry died in the morning of Monday 31st January 2011 from a heart attack. He was 77. The legendary composer was living in Oyster Bay, Long Island and is survived by his loving wife Laurie and his four grown children. Funeral arrangements would be private but a memorial service is planned in the United Kingdom later in the year.

Of his predecessor, incumbent 007 composer David Arnold said: "I am profoundly saddened by the news but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally."

The Living Daylights (1987) Composer
A View to a Kill (1985) Composer
Octopussy (1983) Composer
Moonraker (1979) Composer
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) Composer
Diamonds Are Forever (1971) Composer
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) Composer
You Only Live Twice (1967) Composer
Thunderball (1965) Composer
Goldfinger (1964) Composer
From Russia With Love (1963) Composer
Dr. No (1962) Musical Arranger / Conductor [Uncredited]

Extended Filmography


  • BMI: Film Music Award for The Specialist (1994)
  • BMI: Film Music Award for Indecent Proposal (1993)
  • Oscar: Best Music for Chaplin (1992)
  • Oscar: Best Music for Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • Grammy: Best Instrumental Composition for A Motion Picture for Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • BMI: Film Music Award for Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • BMI: Film Music Award for The Living Daylights (1987)
  • Oscar: Best Music for Out of Africa (1985)
  • Golden Globe: Best Original Score for Out of Africa (1985)
  • BMI: Film Music Award for Out of Africa (1985)
  • London Critics: Special Achievement Award for Out of Africa (1985)
  • Saturn Award: Best Music for Somwhere In Time (1980)
  • Oscar: Best Music for The Lion in Winter (1968)
  • BAFTA: Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music for The Lion In Winter (1968)
  • Oscar: Best Music for Born Free (1966)
  • Oscar Best Origional Song for Born Free (1966) with Don Black

Frequently Works With
Don Black

Related Articles
Barry on the Bond Theme
Time Tunnel: Barry On The Bondwagon
The Origins of the James Bond Theme