Fond memories of a great composer
DAME Shirley Bassey last night led tributes to the Oscar-winning composer John Barry, who has died at the age of 77.
Barry, who grew up in York, wrote scores for films including The Ipcress File, Zulu and Midnight Cowboy but is best known for his long association with the James Bond films.
Last night, Dame Shirley, who lent her voice to some of his most famous compositions, said: “I was very sad to hear of the death of my old friend John Barry, who was responsible for me singing the Bond songs Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Moonraker. He most recently wrote a song for my latest CD The Performance – it was a beautiful ballad, Our Time Is Now.
“The world has lost a most gifted man. My thoughts and my prayers are with his family.”
Lyricist Don Black, who co-wrote songs including Born Free and Diamonds Are Forever with Barry, said success never changed him and hailed him as “a wonderful talent”.
Sir Tim Rice, who collaborated with Barry on the theme to the 1983 Bond film Octopussy, said he was “a magnificent figure”.
Barry was born into a showbusiness family – his mother played the piano and his father owned a string of cinemas.
He credited his early days helping out in the family business as the inspiration for his love of the cinema.
He was made an OBE and was awarded a Bafta fellowship in 2005 in recognition of his work.
Barry’s arrangement of Monty Norman’s James Bond theme made his name and he wrote songs for many of the suave spy’s adventures.
His style, complete with lush strings and grand orchestral movements, was instantly recognisable and influenced stars including Robbie Williams, whose 1998 number one hit Millennium was inspired by the theme to You Only Live Twice.
Black said: “I think I knew him as well as anyone in the world. We were best friends for a long time, since the early Sixties.
“The thing about John that I will always remember was he never changed.
“He was very much the Yorkshireman whether he was in Beverly Hills or Manhattan.
“He lived in Oyster Bay, New York, for 30 or 40 years but you would never know it. There was no trace of America about him, he brought York to New York.
“He had a wonderful talent and gave me my start with Thunderball. When he played you a melody it was like an unveiling. You didn’t question it because you knew he had been up all night working on it and getting it right.”
Fellow composer David Arnold, who took over Bond music duties from Barry, said he had “an extraordinary gift”.