John Barry R.I.P

February 1, 2011

John Barry, composer, creator of many James Bond film themes and five times Oscar winner died of a heart attack on Sunday at the age of 77.

There have been some cracking film theme composers of the 20th Century like Jerry Goldsmith (Capricorn One) and John Williams (ET), but there is something about a John Barry tune that is rich, full and slightly melancholic. I remember buying a CD compilation of his music for a particular track a few years ago and was astounded at the list as I recognised almost all of them: Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Ipcress File, Out of Africa, Dancing With Wolves, Born Free, The Persuaders, Midnight Cowboy and on and on it goes.

Let me put forward a few of my favourites. The restricted playback from this site, demanded by the big companies on some of these YouTube clips made it very difficult to put this together and has driven me nuts. It means you have to click twice to get to the content, but don’t let that put you off from giving them a go.

I have very little time for Bond movies, but, with a couple of exceptions (Madonna, shame on you), I love Bond themes. I like this one the best: You Only Live Twice. Aha’s Living Daylights is a close second for me.

And as a partner to the above theme, there is Space March (Capsule In Space), a well known piece of James Bond incidental music. This is hardcore.

I remember watching The Persuaders. Well, actually it’s the theme I remember more than the content of the show, leaving aside the very recognisable Tony Curtis and Roger Moore. I’m sure if I watched it again now I’d be very disappointed. Thank goodness for the music.

I have always liked this one. It’s from The Deep. I have never seen the film and I heard it was crap, but Donna Summer is a fabulous singer and this was an excellent tune. I present her singing version here and also the instrumental that was on the B-side if you were lucky enough to get the single. This soundtrack is hard to find and very expensive, so enjoy it here. It’s sweeping, it’s majestic, it’s big.

Finally, my absolute favourite. The theme that set me off on the John Barry Journey: the theme from Midnight Cowboy. I have no words for this. Just listen to it, OK?

Another one gone, but he’s left plenty for us to enjoy. RIP, John Barry.



  1. He was one of the very best composers of large orchestral themes in a variety of styles. Like Jerry Goldsmith, he was especially good when alternating manly-sounding horns with gushy-emotional strings. sections. His work added a sense of grandness and importance to the Bond films, so much that hearing it helped us believe impossible plots.

    Thanks for the retrospective.

    • You’re welcome. I know if you had the time, you would’ve done a fantastic tribute to this composer. He certainly deserves it.

  2. Sorry to hear that. Made me think of Bernard Hermann who scored a bunch of Hitchcock films leaving a very distinct mark.

    • My goodness, how could I had forgotten about him? Thanks for the reminder.

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