Composer John Barry, 1933-2011: A legacy of film memories

It’s inevitable – the film world always loses one of its greats just weeks before Academy Award night. This year, the emotional montage of farewells will include one of Hollywood’s musical icons, John Barry, who passed away unexpectedly this weekend. My own John Barry obsessive phase was renewed back in 1990 when Dances with Wolves hit theaters. I’d already been pulled in by Barry through one of my all-time favorite films, The Lion in Winter, whose dynamic opening credits have to be one of the most memorable and powerful in movie history. Then came my discovery of Somewhere in Time, that melancholy romance with a fateful twist on time travel – that film score looped over and over again on a cherished mix tape I created in the mid 80’s. After Dances with Wolves made its mark, I purchased a DVD collection of John Barry movie themes which I would listen to at a glorious, ludicrous volume through the Museum of Science’s Omni Theater sound system at the end of my late night shifts. Most of us are familiar with his most popular or award-winning film scores, Out of Africa, The Black Hole, Born Free, Dances with Wolves, The Lion in Winter, Somewhere in Time, Midnight Cowboy, and his numerous James Bond soundtracks, but it’s worth delving deeper into Barry’s repertoire, or at the very least, viewing these films with your musical ear carefully locked in.

As much joy as we get out of independent film, there’s no denying the impact of the Hollywood hit. John Barry’s lush musical manipulation of our emotions will keep us coming back to these classic films for decades to come.

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