John Barry, Oscar-winning composer, dies
John Barry, the five-time Oscar-winning composer who scored a dozen James Bond films, died at his Long Island home Sunday at age 77.
A native Yorkshireman, he lived since 1980 in Oyster Bay, in a memento-filled home overlooking Long Island Sound. According to Variety, Barry died there of a heart attack.
Though best known for his Bond films, Barry - who was awarded the Order of the British Empire, one of England's highest honors, in 1999 - wrote scores for a multitude of films including "Midnight Cowboy," "Body Heat," "Jagged Edge" and even "Howard the Duck." He won two Academy Awards for "Born Free" (1966), for best score and best song, and Oscars for his scores for "The Lion in Winter" (1968), "Out of Africa" (1985) and "Dances with Wolves" (1990). (The 1990 score was dedicated to the Glen Cove doctors who'd saved him following an esophageal rupture in 1988.)
Lyricist Sir Tim Rice ("Evita," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "The Lion King"), who collaborated with Barry on the theme to the Bond film "Octopussy" (1983), called Barry "a magnificent figure . . . He was able to catch the mood of a scene or a whole film by the genius of orchestration with fairly conventional instruments."
Barry's signature work was the popular "James Bond Theme," composed for the debut Bond film "Dr. No" (1962) in collaboration with Monty Norman, who received sole credit. A matter of dispute for decades, the issue came to a head after London's The Sunday Times published a 1997 article that called Barry sole author of the theme. Norman sued the newspaper and was awarded the equivalent of about $45,000) in 2001. He subsequently scored "Goldfinger," "From Russia with Love," "Thunderball" and eight other Bond features.
Born John Barry Prendergast, Barry grew up in a family that owned eight movie theaters in northern England. In recent times, his film music has been sampled by musicians including Fatboy Slim, Sneaker Pimps, House of Pain and many others.
Barry's Long Island home was his refuge. He once said of Centre Island in Oyster Bay, "I love the isolation. I have a beautiful studio that overlooks the lawn right down into the sea. Total peace," he told Starlog magazine in 1994. "I don't have any social life when I start to work - it's just that kind of intensity I like: to write, to go for a walk on the beach, come back [and] reflect on what you've written."
Barry was divorced three times; he is survived by his wife Laurie, whom he married in 1978, four children and five grandchildren. A private funeral was planned, the family said.