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John Barry (1933-2011) - Scorekeeper & Harry remembers and honors him

ScoreKeeper here with the worst kind of news. Legendary film composer John Barry passed away late last night at the age of 77. You don't have to be a passionate pursuer of film music or an avid soundtrack collector to have been blessed by Barry's musical gifts. He transcended niches and touched the lives of practically every movie lover around the world.

Although he'll be most remembered for composing scores for eleven James Bond films, DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990), THE BLACK HOLE (1979), A LION IN WINTER (1968), CHAPLIN (1992), OUT OF AFRICA (1985), BODY HEAT (1981), and countless others, one of my personal favorites is a slightly lesser-known work entitled MY LIFE (1993) starring Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman.

There was something about Barry's score for MY LIFE that struck me in a profound way. The film deals with the incredibly difficult subject of celebrating life even while staring in the face of death. Keaton's character develops an inoperable brain tumor and is given a few months to live. His sole goal becomes to live long enough to see the birth of his child. While he struggles to heal his body, he discovers the importance of healing his spirit.

I can't imagine a more difficult subject of which to compose music. Barry's impeccable score for MY LIFE unleashes the unimaginable sadness of death paired harmoniously with a joyous celebration of life.

I can't think of a score more appropriate...


Rest in peace, Mr. Barry. You will be missed.




I know there are other writers here at Ain't It Cool who were touched by the genius of John Barry. I invite them to add their own words to this eulogy if they so desire.

On behalf of Ain't It Cool News, I'd like to extend my condolences to the Barry family. May the treasures he left behind lift your spirits in this time of overwhelming grief.



Hey folks, Harry here...

I remember as a boy,  I was obsessed with the KING KONG remake.   Obsessed.   The original 1933 KING KONG had been my most favoritest film ever...  and that is exactly how I put it.   The initial marketing push for me was at TACO BELL and REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS...   They had these giant reproductions of that great KONG art head looking in the window of the place - and REESE'S ran a Willy Wonka style - Win a Part in the new KING KONG contest which unfortunately I took too seriously as a youth.   Developing an lust for chocolate and peanut butter which should never be encouraged in a young boy.

BUT - the point where I went nuts was when John Barry's score was released, about a month before the film was.  My parents had managed to secure one of the KING KONG window heads and it looked into my bedroom from my windows - and I'd listen to Barry's score and dream of KING KONG.   His score created such a beautiful seeming film.   KONG felt majestic,  Ann's theme was flirtatious and sweet...  innocent.   The heavy moments seemed filled with dread and tension - and I was absolutely convinced it was going to be the best thing ever.

The resulting film was never as good as the pre-production art and John Barry's score.   Though I really did love Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges' work in the film.   But as great as Rick Baker was - I still could not shake the MAN-IN-SUIT of KING KONG, and that was a GODZILLA thing.   The thing that made GODZILLA less cool than Kong.   Kong was supposed to be brought to life in a manner I could never wrap my head arounds as a kid.   But this...  my eyes instantly told me, that's a human being in there.   It ruined the magic...   along with Charles Grodin and the entire Oil Company plot - and when Kong is in the giant gas pump...  forget it.

But throughout the embarrassingly bad moments of that Kong remake - John Barry made it soar.   He's the reason I own the film in 16mm.   

John Barry made all the Bond Girls in my youth...  desirable, when I wasn't even sure what my desires were.   His music made the women on the screen the most sensual beings I've seen.   Sure it had something to do with the fact that those Bond women of the late 70's and early 80's - well they were hot as hell, the photography made them seem soft...  but Barry's music made their love and sexuality overwhelming.   These weren't women you'd see in the world, they had John Barry music as they moved.

The same goes for the Cygnus in BLACK HOLE...  Barry's music added so much to the already stunning gothic look of that magnificent space craft.   His music and that whirring blender blade sound effect is what made that scary scarlet beast so damn scary.   He gave those faceless robed "robots" souls.   Especially when one began limping.   

His scores elevated the films in which they accompanied.   Without those scores, I wonder if I could even really watch either film.

I got the news of Barry's death right as I was going to bed last night.   I slept to KONG & BLACK HOLE - and it was a good sleep.   

Barry was one of the best.


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