One of the most celebrated composers in the history of cinema, the influence of Ennio Morricone is omnipresent. Over the course of a long and blindingly illustrious career, Morricone collaborated with some of the best – ranging from Sergio Leone and Pier Paolo Pasolini to American pioneers such as Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter.
Born in Rome, Morricone grew up loving music since his father was a professional musician who taught him how to play multiple instruments. People around him noted that he was naturally gifted from an early age since he wrote down his first composition when he was just six years old and displayed a flair for musical abilities.
While Morricone composed many pieces for TV as well as pop artists, he first broke into the world of film scoring after he graduated in 1954 and got the role of a ghostwriter. Ten years later, Morricone’s career would experience a meteoric trajectory when he collaborated with his former schoolmate Sergio Leone on a few westerns.
“Leone first called me because he had heard my music for two other Italian-Spanish Westerns,” Morricone recalled in an interview. “He’d heard an arrangement I’d done for a song, and he wanted that arrangement for A Fistful of Dollars. It was an atmosphere to which we later added the theme, and the whistle, and so on.”
The composer went on to explain: “Then, in the following films, Leone granted a greater importance to the use of the music than most other directors. For him. music really was as important as dialogue and all the other components. Therefore, he felt it was important to ask me to write the music before he shot the film.”
These scores for westerns would play a definitive role in the future of the genre as well as Morricone’s own musical sensibilities as he slowly emerged as a creative force to be reckoned with. He went on to have a major impact on other genres, including political thrillers and Giallo films before branching out into Hollywood.
Listen to a mammoth playlist of Ennio Morricone’s western scores below.