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John Barry reflects on 10 of his scores

'Goldfinger' 'Midnight Cowboy' music reconsidered

Goldfinger” (1964)

“By the time I did ‘Goldfinger,’ the Bond series was in full stride. Everything came together — the song, the score, the style. I liked the title; it was a song about a villain, like ‘Mack the Knife.’ Shirley Bassey, probably the No. 1 singer in England at the time, didn’t know who she was singing about. I said, ‘Just be convincing, Shirley. Go out there and belt the hell out of it.’ And she did.”

“Born Free” (1966)

“I had big disagreements with the director. He thought he’d made a very meaningful movie, an intellectual statement about freedom. I saw it as a Disneyesque kind of movie, lovely family entertainment. So I said to the producer, Carl Foreman, the only way I can do this is by doing almost a satire on a sentimental Disney kind of picture.”

“The Lion in Winter” (1968)

“People were surprised that I wrote a choral score. But I was studying choral music with Dr. Francis Jackson, master of music at York Minster, when I was 14, 15, 16 years old. I went through the script, got the gist of it and consulted with a Latin scholar who brought me texts, which I then set to music.”

Midnight Cowboy” (1969)

“I wrote all the underscore, including the harmonica theme, and then supervised everything else. This was one of the earliest examples of a popular-music score. We took a lot of time — (director) John Schlesinger, (producer) Jerry Hellman and myself — choosing the songs extremely carefully. Except for ‘Everybody’s Talking,’ nothing else had been recorded. We used various songwriters, and it still holds up today.”

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)

“Louis Armstrong was my suggestion (to sing ‘We Have All the Time in the World’). He’d been very ill, in the hospital for a long time, but he was the sweetest man in the world. He was so prepared. He walked right up to the mic, did it, and that was it. It was the last recording he ever made.”

“Somewhere in Time” (1980)

“That was the ultimate romantic score. It was a failure (as a movie) originally; it was only when it went on TV that people found it. I’ve had more letters from people about that score than any score I’ve ever written. Maybe it had something to do with the time I wrote it. My father had died, and 16 weeks later my mother died, and this was the first piece of music I wrote after that.”

“Body Heat” (1981)

“That was a very sexy thing, with Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. I’ve had very good luck with first-time directors; this was Lawrence Kasdan’s first picture. Ronnie Lang played the alto sax. One of the best compliments I ever had was when Richard Marquand asked me to do ‘Jagged Edge’; he said, ‘I laid “Body Heat” over it because I thought it would work, but it didn’t.’ The music for ‘Body Heat’ was so specific that it didn’t translate to another film.”

“The Cotton Club” (1984)

“I had a done a movie called ‘Hammett,’ which Francis Coppola produced; then we did ‘The Cotton Club,’ which Francis directed. I was a big, big jazz fan, and the Cotton Club was a very famous haunt. It was a complex picture. I used a lot of Ellington style in that score, with a lot of musicians in New York who play Ellington and Goodman and all that.”

Out of Africa” (1985)

“Sydney Pollack had said to me, ‘We’ve got all this African music and it isn’t working.’ And I said, ‘Sydney, it’s not about Africa.’ It was a story that took place in Africa, but the main focus was the relationship of these two people and their love of Africa. It was a romantic story of two people who loved this country more than life itself. There was only 35 minutes of music, but it seemed like a big score because when it did come in, it was very upfront and forward.”

“Dances With Wolves” (1990)

“It was a totally different experience for me, and wonderful, being an Englishman, to be able to write music for this all-American story. It was an hour and 35 minutes, the most I’d ever written for a movie. I approached the whole score from the point of view of John Dunbar (Kevin Costner). It was his journey after the Civil War, to see the frontier, and his assessment of the dignity and graciousness of the Sioux people.”

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