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James Bond, Born Free Movie Composer John Barry Dies at Age 77

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Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- John Barry, the Oscar-winning movie-music composer best known for composing 11 James Bond soundtracks, has died at the age of 77.

Barry, who was born in York, England, suffered a heart attack in New York, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported today.

His arrangement of Monty Norman’s “James Bond” theme led to Barry scoring the music for 007 films such as “Goldfinger” and “You Only Live Twice.”

His five Academy Awards recognized his work on “Born Free,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Out of Africa” and “Dances With Wolves.” The last movie also picked up a Grammy for best score soundtrack album, while “Midnight Cowboy” won a Grammy for best instrumental composition.

His work gained a new popularity when Robbie Williams featured Barry’s “You Only Live Twice” on his 1998 hit single “Millennium.”

Composer David Arnold, a fan of Barry, produced “Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project,” a CD of new versions of the Barry themes. On Barry’s recommendation, Arnold has gone on to score Bond films such as “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

“I am profoundly saddened by the news,” Arnold wrote on his Twitter feed, “but profoundly thankful for everything he did for music and for me personally.”

Barry started arranging music when he was in the army. He later formed the John Barry Seven. After his success with “Goldfinger” in 1964, he became known as “the film composer with the golden touch.”

Bafta Fellowship

His albums include “Themeology” and he was awarded a fellowship by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Bafta, in 2005.

Barry's stage musical “Brighton Rock,” based on Graham Greene's 1938 novel of gangland life in a seaside town, opened in 2004 with lyrics by Don Black, who had worked on many films with the composer. Critics at the time said Barry was more likely to be remembered for more than 100 movie scores, especially the powerful “Goldfinger” and haunting “Midnight Cowboy.”

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Mark Beech in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at