RIP John Barry

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British composer and guitarist John Barry died yesterday in New York at age 77.  He was best known for his title songs and scores for most of the James Bond movies, including the Sean Connery blueprints Goldfinger; From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever.  

There has been no music in films as iconic as what John Barry wrote for the James Bond series, and his contribution to the mystique of the character and “production quality” of the series can’t be underestimated.

From the opening titles, his unique harmonic sense merged with Maurice Binder’s sexy visuals to make even the worst Bond films interesting for the first few minutes at least.  He would often write a new song with a current pop artist to give the composition a Bond-esque vibe, and in many cases created the best work of their career. His influence on other film music is immeasurable and John Barry’s music was also a huge source of inspiration for pop artists like Portishead, whose melodies and twangy guitars evoke spy stories.

Bond artists Garbage (“The World is Not Enough”), Chris Cornell (“You Know My Name” from “Casino Royale”), Rita Coolidge (“All Time High” from Moonraker), Sheena Easton (“For Your Eyes Only”), Gladys Knight without the Pips (“License to Kill”), Nancy Sinatra and most of all, Shirley Bassey (“Goldfinger,” “Thunderball” and “Diamonds are Forever”), all rose to a higher level working with John Barry.

John Barry also worked on other major films, such as “Born Free” and “Midnight Cowboy.” His incredibly evocative music will be around for a very long time.

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