Monty Norman, Composer Of The James Bond Theme, Has Died At 94

Monty Norman, the man who composed the iconic "James Bond" theme music, has died. Norman was 94 years old. The news was initially shared by the BBC, and a notice on his personal website has also confirmed his passing. The message on his website reads, "It is with sadness we share the news that Monty Norman died on 11th July 2022 after a short illness." No further details have been provided at this time.

While Norman had a long, varied career, composing music for the stage as well as for movies such as "The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll" and "The Day the Earth Caught Fire," he is best known for crafting the legendary music that first accompanied 007 in his first cinematic adventure, "Dr. No," in 1962. That film is the only one in the franchise to not have a pre-title sequence. Instead, we see the spy shooting his gun at the screen in what would eventually become a familiar trope in the "James Bond" series. The music that played as this gunshot rang out has gone on to become one of the most recognizable and enduring pieces of music ever put to film, lasting for 60 years from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.

Outside of film, Norman also worked as a singer in the '50s and '60s, heading up various big band outfits. He also wrote songs for several stage musicals during his career, including "Belle" and "Songbook."

A date with destiny in Jamaica

Cubby Broccoli, one of the producers who helped turn Ian Fleming's "James Bond" books into a series of very successful films, wanted Norman to work on "Dr. No" after seeing his work in "Belle." However, Norman was quite busy at the time with other projects and he only agreed to be a part of it after Broccoli and Harry Saltzman offered to fly him to Jamaica with his wife, all expenses paid, to compose the music for the film. "Well, that was the clincher for me!" Norman said of the opportunity. "I thought, even if 'Dr. No' turns out to be a stinker at least we'd have sun, sea and sand to show for it!"

As for the music itself, it was actually repurposed and was originally written as part of a possible adaptation of "A House for Mr. Biswas." The song was originally titled "Good Sign, Bad Sign," but had a sitar playing the main riff instead of guitar. Once Normal switched the riff to guitar, history was made. Norman also had this to say about it:

"Burt Rhodes was the original orchestrator of the 'Dr. No' score, and a superb job he did. But we recognised we needed a fresh, contemporary sound for the main theme and in the up-and-coming young John Barry we found a wonderful arranger, so the whole thing worked very well. I still think that Barry's original orchestration is probably the best. Though there have been some pretty good ones out there."

For years, Norman had to fight to defend the fact that he did indeed write the theme, which Barry was often credited for. Norman filed three separate court actions over the years, winning all three, to ensure that he was properly credited for his work. RIP, Monty Norman.