John Barry was arguably Britain's best-known composer of film music. He emerged at a time when the score of a movie was seldom recorded for the album market, and when the musical arranger, for all his importance to the end product, was a comparatively anonymous part of the film-making process. Barry's career has spanned the years in which there has been this increasing awareness of the importance of this role.
The expansion of the record industry in the 1960s; the growing recognition of the impact of a memorable main theme on box office receipts; a wider acceptance of film music as a serious art form; all have helped ensure that securing the services of a 'name' composer is now almost as important as hiring the star actors. Musicians from all walks of life have entered the fray, but only the most talented have survived.
One has only to glance through the sketchiest John Barry discography to appreciate the remarkable diversity and quality of his output. Stretching over a career now spanning forty years, Barry's musical canon takes many different forms and so means different things to different listeners, depending on how they first heard his work. Film enthusiasts will no doubt home in on his Oscar-winning scores for Born Free, The Lion In Winter, Out Of Africa and Dances With Wolves as his major creative achievements. Chart aficionados, on the other hand, are likely to point to his commercial successes with 'Hit And Miss' (adopted as the theme for BBC TV's Juke Box Jury) and 'The Persuaders' (the theme from the ITV series of the same name). Rock 'n' rollers are likely to consider the John Barry Seven as one of the most innovative pioneers of the pre--Beatles British music scene, while pop historians would probably highlight his distinctive pizzicato string arrangements for Adam Faith's phenomenally successful records as the definitive John Barry sound. Whichever way you look at it, Barry's back catalogue is impressively eclectic, while being stamped throughout with a highly individual personal touch.
John Barry lived and works in Oyster Bay, New York. When in England he operated from an apartment in Cadogan Square, London. He died in Oyster Bay on January 30, 2011.
See also: "John Barry - The Man With the Midas Touch" website