Ultra Swank - Retro Adventures

Remembering John Barry

Written by Christopher Alm • January 31st, 2011
Remembering John Barry

One of my absolutely favorite composers of all time has passed away. John Barry, winner of five Academy awards and numerous other awards. Many will remember him for his tremendous work of scoring 11 of the James Bond movies and co-authoring the famous 007 gun barrel theme, but that’s only part of his career. He also scored music to 100 other films and tv-shows.

His trademark sound of using lush strings and strong brass arrangements has created beautiful and emotionally powerful songs to movies such as “High Road to China”, “Out of Africa”, “Dances with Wolves” and “The Lion in Winter” among many, many others. Barry started his career in 1957 and got his big break performing on the BBC show Drumbeat with his John Barry Seven band. A few years later he was offered to rearrange the 007 theme as the producers were displeased with Monty Normans work. The rest is as they say, history.

My absolute favorite John Barry scores include “Moonraker”, “High Road to China”, “Follow Me” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Secret Service”, where his innovative use of synthesizers created one of the most memorable James Bond themes in history. To remember and tribute this amazing composer and human being I am including samples of his brilliant work.

Maestro John Barry, I salute you. (John Barry 1933 – 2011)

Source BBC   

Christopher Alm

Christopher founded Ultra Swank in 2005. Has a crush on mid-century graphic design, defunct airlines, Disneyland and the Century 21 Exposition. Is a collector of easy listening music from the 60s and 70s and a Swedish expat living in Barcelona, Spain.

Find out more about Christopher Alm

  • Fritz

    Thanks for sharing these clips. Great tribute to Sir Barry – he will be missed! Please note that the correct Wolves title is DancES With Wolves.

  • Thank you for pointing it out. I was probably so distraught I didn’t know what I was writing :)

  • Nice to see you acknowledge that BArry was so much more than Bond – despite being mostly lovely, the score were bread and butter work really – chop’em out to a Bond franchise formula mostly, although the raw edge of OHMSS, and the spacy romance of Moonraker do stand out.

    Barry soundtracks were always identifiable, that little ‘parp’ of brass that sends a tingle up your spine and gets your heart beating that bit quicker – even if you didn’t know the film, you’d work out quick enough it was a Barry score.

    Some of his best works were the lessser known ones – The Knack & How to get it, The Lion in Winter, The Black Hole, Midnight Cowboy, The Ipcress File, and the utterly sublime RAISE THE TITANIC… I remember spotting RTT in a shop window, having not seen the film since one sunday afternoon 20yrs previous – my hand was shaking as I paid for the CD… and that night I listened with tears of joy rolling down my face, remembering an emotional Alec Guinness patting the White Star flag, and the ship’s bow breaking the surface in slow motion… Barry scored some great films, and made a whole lot more so-so films great through his scoring.

  • I find Raise of the Titanic a very interesting score, although I’ve never seen the movie it self. The score can be found on Spotify for those of us who have access to it. I can also recommend The Scarlett Letter, the score that should probably be considered as one of his last proper Hollywood scores. I like seeing the more “bombastic” side of John Barry that he delivers in some of the variations. The movie failed miserably, but the music alone makes it very memorable.

  • Sharon Peyton

    Reading this story about the passing of John Barry reminded me of one of my favorite record albums, “The Knack..and how to get it”. Barry wrote the music for this movie. This was one of very few albums that I bought in the 1960’s. I’m sitting here clutching this very old and worn out album cover as I remember how much I loved this music in 1965. I remember playing it over and over, but I had forgotten about it until you reminded me. Barry wrote much good music. I love movies. Good music can really enhance a good movie. His music brought much joy to many people.

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