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Monty Norman, James Bond composer, dead at 94

Monty Norman, the British composer who wrote the main theme tune for the James Bond films, has died at the age of 94. “It is with sadness we share the news that Monty Norman died on 11th July 2022 after a short illness,” Norman’s family shared on his website.

A rarity in the world of film composing, Norman specialized in bringing stinging guitar lines to the silver screen. Born Monty Noserovitch in the East End of London, Norman spent his early career as a singer in big bands and comedy variety shows. Throughout the 1950s, Norman shared the stage with the likes of Count Basie, Spike Milligan, Benny Hill, and Cliff Richard.

After a number of years on stage, Norman moved behind the curtain, initially as a lyric writer for musicals and pop songs. In 1960, Norman helped write the music for the film The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, beginning his career in film composing.

In 1962, Norman was hired to composer the main theme for the first James Bond film, Dr. No. Norman conceived the theme as a slinky guitar song, contrasting the grand sweeping themes of old-school Hollywood. Norman’s theme perfectly set the tone for James Bond: suave, mysterious, slightly dangerous, and infectious.

There has been some controversy as to whether Norman actually composed the final version of the theme. Eon Productions were dissatisfied with the version of the song arranged by Norman, so John Barry was brought in to re-arrange the film’s music. Barry would go on to compose the music for an additional ten Bond films and claim that he was the rightful author of the James Bond theme.

Norman won two separate libel cases against Barry for claiming that he wrote the Bond theme. After his Bond work, Norman returned to musicals, writing the music and lyrics for productions like Songbook and Poppy.