Jack Yan
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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006.



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31.01.2011

The music of goodbye: farewell John Barry

It was with great sadness that I wrote an obit about my favourite composer, John Barry, today, and published it on the Lucire website.
   While Barry didn’t have to do with fashion per se, his music was often fitting themes to each era. Who can write a complete history of 1960s’ music without some of its anthems: Barry’s Goldfinger and Born Free themes must rank highly (the Academy thought so with the latter; ironic considering Born Free’s producer did not), and the haunting ‘We Have All the Time in the World’? Barry fans like me will point to even his 1970s’ output as brilliant, regardless of the merit of the film: Murphy’s War, King Kong and The Deep work as stand-alone works as far as I am concerned. This blog itself is named for a TV series for which Barry wrote the theme, The Persuaders. Somewhere in Time remains as haunting now as it did then; Barry’s contribution to Out of Africa made the film seem larger than it really was. John Barry had style—and style is the currency my magazines deal in.
   It’s easy to point to Barry’s major works, as the obits have done, but as I type, I can think of The Glass Menagerie, Across the Sea of Time, Masquerade and Swept from the Sea as excellent scores, too.
   Barry once said that he was very visual. It’s an odd comment from a composer, but what he probably meant was that he could find music to complement scenes that he saw. For someone who wanted to be a film composer since childhood, and taking every opportunity to get there, his is a career that many of us would rightfully envy. He loved what he did, was acclaimed for it, and managed to live his daily life in reasonable privacy.
   I understood the visual comment but it was hammered home best when, driving around Oriental Bay, I saw one of the ferries go out. At the same time, Barry’s Raise the Titanic theme came on my tape deck (this was a while ago).
   Now, a Wellington–Picton ferry is not the Titanic, but I was amazed at how well the theme complemented the sight of a ship in the harbour. It was then I realized just how hard it would be for a musician to convey images, and just what Barry meant. I defy anyone listening to the Raise the Titanic theme (presuming you can find it—mine was not conducted by Barry) to not get nautical images in your head when it’s played and your eyes are shut. That’s how good Barry was.
   I always knew at some point I would write John Barry’s obit. I didn’t expect it so soon, but then, I imagine, no one did. He’s the only celeb whose obit-writing caused me to tear up; when composer David Arnold Tweeted that he felt that ‘Mary’s Theme’ from Mary, Queen of Scots was fitting, I teared up a little more.
   For me, John Barry’s music is the music of my teenage years and my 20s. So much of what I did, I did to a Barry soundtrack. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s CD accompanied me into my first trip to Switzerland—like the experience with the ferry, it went with the snowy landscapes. As I bombed around Monaco and the South of France, it was The Persuaders’ theme (which I even referred to when I wrote a story about the experience). It was a further bond with my good friend, Richard Searle—when he got me out of some legal issues many years ago, a Barry biography was my gift to him; when I met Donna Loveday, the curator, Barry came up again—she even used one of his compositions at her wedding.
   It’s like a little bit of myself died today—that’s the feeling I get from the news. I never met John Barry nor did I meet anyone who knew him. The closest I got was Richard telling me he had been to a Barry concert, of which I was very jealous.
   But I am a fan, and will remain so till my days end. He was the only musician whose career I can say I followed for a majority of my lifetime. So this is how it feels to lose a celebrity whose work you truly admired.

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Filed under: culture, interests, media, UK, USA—Jack Yan @ 10.47

3 Responses to ‘The music of goodbye: farewell John Barry’

  1. alex navarro says:

    i felt identified. i met him very briefly in 1998 just after his concert. i grew up with his music. i miss him so much. greetings

  2. […] speaks with English accents and the female cast speaks with Italian and French ones.    John Barry dies. My favourite composer. […]

  3. […] speaks with English accents and the female cast speaks with Italian and French ones.    John Barry dies. My favourite composer. […]

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