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James Bond theme composer Monty Norman dies at 94

The British singer-composer’s music was used in all 25 James Bond films
Norman also worked with British comedian Benny Hill and singer Cliff Richards.
Norman also worked with British comedian Benny Hill and singer Cliff Richards.

AP, Entertainment Web Desk   |   London   |   Published 12.07.22, 01:28 PM

Monty Norman, a British singer-composer who composed the iconic theme music for the James Bond films, passed away at the age of 94.

A statement posted Monday on Norman's official website said, “It is with sadness we share the news that Monty Norman died on 11th July 2022 after a short illness.”

Born to Jewish parents in the East End of London in 1928, Norman got his first guitar when he was 16.

He performed with big bands and in a variety of double acts with British comedian Benny Hill who was known for his brand of slapstick, burlesque comedy. Norman then started writing songs for early British rockers Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele. He also began composing for stage musicals including Make Me an Offer, Expresso Bongo, Songbook and Poppy.

Norman was hired by producer Albert Cubby Broccoli to compose a theme for the first James Bond film, Dr. No which was released in 1962. 

It was reported that Norman initially was not willing to work on the film as he was busy with other projects. Broccoli and his partner Harry Saltzman offered to fly Norman and his wife to Jamaica where the movie was being shot. The composer had joked that the all-expenses-paid trip was the ‘clincher’ that made him agree to work on the movie. 

He drew on a piece he had written for a proposed musical adaptation of V.S. Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas, shifting the key riff from sitar to electric guitar. The twangy and propulsive result has been used in all 25 Bond thrillers since its inception.

Producers hired composer John Barry to rearrange the theme, and Barry was widely assumed to have written it to Norman's chagrin. Barry, who died in 2011, went on to compose scores for almost a dozen Bond films, including Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.

Norman went to court to assert his authorship, suing the Sunday Times newspaper for libel over a 1997 article asserting the theme was composed by Barry. He won in 2001 and was awarded 30,000 pounds in damages. 

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