John Barry, OBE (born John Barry Prendergast on November 3, 1933 in York, England) is considered one of the “Big Four” of late 20th century film composers (the others being John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Henry Mancini).
His family was in the cinema business, but it was during his National Service that he began performing as a musician. After taking a correspondence course and arranging for some of the bands of the day, he formed the “John Barry Seven.” Barry then met Adam Faith, and composed songs and film scores on the singer’s behalf.
It was this notoriety that caught the attention of the producers of a new movie called Dr. No, who were dissatisfied with the score given to them by Monty Norman. Barry and the JB7 were hired and the result would arguably be the most famous signature tune in film history, the James Bond Theme. (Credit goes to Monty Norman, see below.)
This would be the turning point for Barry, as he would go on to become one of the most celebrated film composers of modern times, winning five Academy Awards and four Grammys, with such memorable scores as The Lion in Winter, Midnight Cowboy, Out of Africa, and Dances with Wolves.
Barry is often cited as having a distinct style which concentrates on lush strings and extensive use of brass. However he is also an innovator, being one of the first to employ synthesizers in a film score (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and to make wide use of pop artists and songs in Midnight Cowboy (Note that while The Graduate came a few years before, those songs had all been previously released).
Living in his native England until the mid 70s, Barry spent some time in Spain (due to tax reasons), but has since spent his life in the United States, mainly in Oyster Bay, outside of New York.