A Great Musician has left us – Small Tribute to John Barry

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Mar 092011

On January, the 30th 2011 the composer John Barry died at the age of 76 years.

As great fan of his music and as a tribute to his works I present here an article I found many years ago in Film Score Monthly (#74, October 1996):

The 1996 Cinemusic Award was presented to John Barry by his old chum, Michael Cain. The following is Mr. Cain’s brief but touching speech at the second cinemusic Award Gala Night held on 9 March 1996. Mr. Cain flew to Gstaad direct from a four month shoot in Miami just for this event:

If you’re a lucky actor, you make your first film. And if you’re very, very lucky, you get great composer to write it. I was very lucky. I made a film called Zulu, and the music was brilliant and helped to make the film a success.

If you’re a slightly older actor, and you ‘re very, very, very lucky, you get to star in a movie. And if you’re very lucky, you get a great composer, which was John Barry, and the film was The Ipcress File, and when suddenly things don’t go right, and you have nowhere to live, he puts you up in his flat for eight weeks. And that’s John Barry.

Kooking back on it, the thought of having me as a house guest for eight weeks must have been an absolute nightmare. But for me, the first night was a nightmare. I’d just gone to bed. We’d been out to dinner, John and I and whoever – we were single at the time, both of us – I’d just gone to bed, and the piano started. It was one o’clock in the morning, and the piano kept on all night, and it just kept going, and I thought “To hell with this! I’ve got to find somewhere else to live.” You know, you hear about these musical geniuses who sit up all night writing, and that’s how John was.

At seven o’clock in the morning, I staggered out. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to get up. And just sitting there, sweat pouring off him, much thinner than he is now, he [John] really reminded me of Franz Liszt. I said to him, “What the hell were you doing all night?” And he said, “I’ve written this song.” And I said, “What’s it called?” And he said “Goldfinger.” And so I was the first person ever in the world to hear “Goldfinger,” and ever to see how John Barry works.

Once, I went to a rough cut of a Bond film, without the music on it, and I sat there. It’s a unique experience to see a Bond film without any music. And at the end of the film, I sat there and thought, “That’s the end of the series. It stinks. It’ useless.” And I hadn’t even realized there was no music in it – I just watched it. And then, of course, John puts the music on, and it works. If you could ever see some of those great movies that you’ve seen without music on them, you’d think to yourself, “How the hell does anybody ever think they’d be a success? It’s rubbish.” I’m not saying that Bonds are rubbish; they’re quite well-made films.What I’m trying to say is that the importance of music on a film is quite extraordinary.

Think back on all the hit movies that you can think of. Practically every single one will have some song or a piece of music associated with it. I just want to point out the importance of the film composer. When I finish a film, the last thing I say to the director with my dying breath at the end of the picture party is, “And who is going to write the music?” And if he’ll say “My sister-in-law,” I know we’re dead.

The importance of music, especially to someone like me, who has no real musical talent whatsoever. But I adore music, and I adore film music, and the importance of music in films – and the importance of this festival – which is concentrated on this really important side as film music, is really incredible.

The reason I’m here not just because I’m great friends with John Barry, which of course I am, and have been for a long, long period of time… It’s because I think that John Barry is one of the greatest movie composers in the history of the movies. I just got off a plane from Miami… I wasn’t about to arrive here and give an award to someone who I didn’t think was great, I’ll tell you that!

The problem with John is that John is very retiring, very quiet, very shy. He’s not a gib man, and so when you see him, he doesn’t sort of look great, so if’re not very careful, you may miss the fact that you’re in the presence of a probable genius, and I don’t want you to do that, because I’m going to invite him up here not to take this award. This is probably the first time in the history of awards that the award is heavier that the person receiving it.

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be fooled, this is a great, great man – John Barry.