John Barry: 1933-2011

With all the posts about film music for David Lynch Week, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the passing on Jan. 30 of John Barry, an Oscar-winning film composer best known for his work on the 007 franchise.

I’ll make this post short and sweet — my three favorite John Barry themes:

Basie Meets BondCount Basie Orchestra, “From Russia With Love” [Buy]

As recorded by the Count Basie Orchestra for its 1965 album Basie Meets Bond. A very Basie interpretation of one of the best Bond themes. I first heard this on the Ultra-Lounge compilation Crime Scene (one of the best Ultra-Lounge discs), and immediately began hunting eBay for the then-out-of-print LP.

John Barry, “Body Heat Main Title” [Rare original available here; or buy the 1998 re-recording]

Kathleen Turner, Body Heat, 1981As steamy as the South Florida heat, as sultry as the young Ms. Kathleen Turner, fully in the noir idiom, but with enough tasteful synthesizer to let you know it’s from the early ’80s. That’s Ronny Lang on alto sax, a soundtrack veteran who can also be heard in Peter GunnTaxi Driver, and other classic film scores.

John Barry, “Midnight Cowboy” [Buy]

A bittersweet, lonely, loping theme, featuring exquisite harmonica playing. It’s just as memorable as Harry Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which plays as Joe Buck is “headin’ up New York City, ma’am.”

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5 Responses to John Barry: 1933-2011

  1. David G says:

    Great tracks, Bill. That Basie is killer. And I never realized how amazing the Midnight Cowboy theme was.

  2. Billy L says:

    Yeah, apparently that’s Toots Thielemans on chromatic harmonica. Here he is with Stevie:

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