John Barry

John Barry: A Personal Reminiscence

Waking up on Monday to the news of John Barry’s passing was heartbreaking, to say the least. Even though he had retired and hadn’t scored a film since 2001’s ENIGMA, his death has rocked the film music community over the last few days, with tributes and reminiscences pouring out all week long. And whether you prefer the wailing brass of the James Bond movies or the serene, lush strings of his later work, it seems everybody has a favorite Barry score and a favorite Barry cinematic memory.

As with many of the old guard, my initiation to Barry’s music came from his Oscar winners. From the instantly recognizable BORN FREE to the choral-inspired leanings of THE LION IN WINTER, my early introductions to Barry are as much a part of me as THE OMEN, STAR WARS or countless other film scores that I hold dear from my early days of film music discovery.

Since Monday, I’ve been trying to figure out how to compose a proper post. Far better writers than I had already composed exhaustive retrospectives of Barry’s long and outstanding career and I had no personal anecdotes that I could relate. Then I realized the answer had been sitting in my inbox all along, an email from a dear friend:

So sad to hear about the death of composer John Barry. I thank you for really educating me about scores and their composers, by sending music to me all these years. I have always loved John Barry’s scores. They are, to me, so elegant and at times majestic…melodic and just so beautiful. During times in life where music is like the only consolation you sometimes feel you have, his scores have soothed me and comforted me, and exhilarated me more than any composer I can think of.Thank you for taking me into the world of scores, because they are now and forever part of the score that makes up my internal source of peace and memories and joy.

I know there are so many great composers, greater or more complicated than John Barry, but his music touched me and always made me feel something. He was a rare composer that could evoke moods and at the same time elevate without overshadowing the movies and stories he wrote for in his career.

I am really not as you know an overtly sentimental, sugary person, but I truly am saddened by his loss. It is like a piece of who I am has left me forever, though of course his body of work will live forever.

Thanks again, or I would not know what a loss we had with the death of composer John Barry.

We share our passions with others to find common ground, to bring us closer and to give a little of ourselves. Like all lucky film music fans, I have decades worth of fond musical memories provided by John Barry’s extraordinary talent. But that his music touched those closest to me in such profound and moving ways, that is the more important legacy. For that especially, thank you, Maestro, from the bottom of my heart.

  1. Sir John was a gentleman with a rare talent that will surely be missed.
    John Barry was an industrial giant in the world of film music; and he was pivotal in making film music a popular entity throughout the second half of the 20th century. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone interested in recorded sound not owning at least one of his recordings at some point in time.

  2. I would be hard put to think of a composer able to generate perfect fit scores with the range of Ipcress File to Lion in Winter. Years ago I owned a record of a long-forgotton delightful Barry score, The Knack and How to Get It. Love to see it issued again (and see the movie).

  3. I’m a bit late on this Jim but I just wanted to add how much I miss this man’s music and what John Barry meant to me. I think your post and quote from your friend says so well what I feel. I’m not much of a writer but thankfully I have music as a way of expressing myself.

    Whenever a film composer whose music I grew up loving, I – as you and many of us who tune into this fine blog do – often play their music in my mind and sometimes, sometimes themes not written by the composer but inspired by them come to mind. It happened to me a couple of years back with Maurice Jarre and has again with John Barry.

    Barry’s music often reached deep inside me and brought out emotions that even favorites like Goldsmith and Williams couldn’t.

    I’m not JB – never will be. I would have been honored just to be in the same building with the man. But this in a small way is my attempt to show what John Barry meant to me.

      1. Thanks Jim.
        For some reason, for many reasons his passing deeply saddened me.

        Of course his soulful music is more than reason enough, but I think it also has to do with time, with its passing, remembering the inspiration of so many wonderful films, graced by his music, the wonder and hope that instilled in me, and to realize that was so long ago.

        I’m way too sentimental and I’ll stop there.

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