The five-time Academy Award winning film composer was born John Barry Prendergast in York, England on November 3, 1933. No doubt his love of music came from his mother who was a classical pianist. But Barry's first taste for what he wanted to do with his life came from his father who owned and operated movie theaters. From there, Barry knew he wanted to work in films and found inspiration from the film scores of such greats - Bernard Hermann and Max Steiner.
Perhaps the greatest legacies of John Barry is the theme he arranged for the James Bond series. There has never been a theme song that is as synonomous a character. The cool, jazzy, steady rhythm that crashes into a crescendo, that once heard by movie goers, conjures images of Bond's fights and car chases. From "Dr. No" (1962) to "The Living Daylights" (1987) Bond composed the scores for 11 Bond films and holds the record within the multiple-decade blockbuster smash franchise.
Aside from the smooth atmosphere in the Bond world, Barry scores have another side to them that expresses implicit sensitivity and romanticism; themes that bring true magic and wonder to all of the films he composed, regardless of the subject matter.
For "The Lion In Winter" (1968), which was one out of the seven Oscar nominations Barry was given during his career, Barry's score is layered with beautiful choral and orchestral work which gives a lot of atmosphere to the historical costume drama. The film's score is both forceful and soft at the same time, which gives it an epic feeling.
One of his beautiful film scores which was not nominated was for the underrated Beeban Kidron film "Swept from the Sea" (1997) which starred a 26-year old Rachel Weisz. The film is about a star-crossed love between an outcast English woman named Amy and a shipwrecked immigrant named Yanko. No one but Barry could compose the score with his soft romantic orchestral work as it softly plays out like ocean waves.
It goes without saying that John Barry's contribution to film has and will continue to inspire and influence many people, just has his music has done for Carter Burwell, who has composed film scores for The Coen Brothers - "John Barry was my hero when I was about 13. His scores to the James Bond movies were the scores of my life back then."
We think the late beloved director Sydney Pollack, who worked with Barry when Pollack directed "Out Of Africa" (1985), said it best - "You can't listen to his music without seeing movies in your head."