John Barry (1933-2011)

Five-time Oscar-winning composer John Barry died recently. He was the man who orchestrated (though did not compose) the famous James Bond theme and also composed the soundtrack for eleven of the Bond films and numerous other acclaimed films.

My own favorite is the great Shirley Bassey singing the title song from Goldfinger.

In this amusing interview on Fresh Air in 1999, Barry reminiscences about how the Bond film producers would give him film titles and ask him and the lyricists to create songs around them at short notice. The songs often made no sense (about Thunderball he said, “I don’t think anybody really analyzed what the hell [Tom Jones] was singing about. And I still don’t know what the song is about to this day”) but the sheer force of the music and the singers’ power carried them along.

When Shirley Bassey was approached to sing the Goldfinger song, she asked “Well, what in the hell is this about?” and he replied “It’s about a villain… Don’t think too much about it.” He told Tom Jones who also was baffled as to what the song Thunderball was about, “Tom, don’t ask. Just take a leaf out of Shirley’s book, get in the studio, sing the hell out of it and leave.”

Here is the opening sequence from Thunderball.


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