John Barry

English Born 03 Nov 1933

John Barry Prendergast was born on November 3rd 1933, the youngest of the four children of a classical pianist mother and a father who owned a cinema chain.  He played the Piano and Trumpet when he was young, as well as working as a projectionist in one of his father's cinemas.  During his time in the army he often gave performances, and took a correspondence course in composition and orchestration.  In 1957 he started the John Barry Seven group which performed jazz and rock tunes, appearing on TV and releasing EPs and singles on the Parlophone label.  However Barry preferred composing to performing, and in 1959 was asked to score his first film, 'Beat Girl'.  Other scores followed, but his big break came in 1962 when director Terence Young asked him to work on the film of an Ian Fleming book - Dr No.  There some confusion and controversy over authorship of the James Bond Theme (soundtrack composer Monty Norman was credited with writing it, possibly erroneously) but Barry was the one asked to write the scores for ten more Bond films, including Goldfinger (1964), From Russia With Love (1963), You Only Live Twice (1967) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Barry is best known for his Bond music, but has written for many other films, from The Ipcress File in 1965 to Playing By Heart in 1999.  He scored the epic smash Dances With Wolves (1990), and wrote for The Horse Whisperer (1999).  Although that score (titled The Beyondness of Things) was rejected by the film's producers, the recording has gone on to achieve great popularity through its own merit.  Barry has also written stage musicals, themes to TV shows (including The Persuaders), and was director of the 60s pop label Ember.

Barry is very particular about his working style.  He detests interference and pressure from directors, producers or supervisors -  turning down an invitation to write for The Prince of Tides because it would have meant reporting to Barbara Streisand every day.  He also refused to work on Sleepless in Seattle because it would have meant sharing the soundtrack album with twenty other songs. 

Show more