Despite being quintessentially British, there is little doubt that the literary and movie character of James Bond has had a profound impact on American culture over the decades.
Sadly, the man who composed the iconic and instantly recognizable theme song for the series of Agent 007 films, Monty Norman, passed away on Monday at the age of 94, the Washington Examiner reported.
That sorrowful announcement was first shared in a brief statement posted to the home page of Norman’s website that simply said, “It is with sadness we share the news that Monty Norman died on 11th July 2022 after a short illness.”
The creation of the James Bond theme
According to the New York Post, Norman had been born in East London as Monty Noserovitch, the son of Jewish Latvian immigrants, who got his start in the entertainment industry as a lyricist and singer for British big bands in the 1950s.
He eventually began composing musical scores and songs for stage productions and movies and, according to Norman’s website, caught the attention of the producers who had just obtained the rights to make a movie based on author Ian Fleming’s James Bond character.
That movie would become the first of the hugely successful Bond franchise, the Sean Connery-starring “Dr. No,” and Norman was sent off to Jamaica to help compose the film’s score on location as the movie was being made in 1962.
Ironically, what would become the famous Bond theme music was actually a draft piece that Norman had originally written and shelved earlier for a musical production that never actually came to be.
Norman tinkered with the piece and made some changes and enlisted the help of a young conductor named John Barry to help arrange it for an orchestra, and that was that.
“Burt Rhodes was the original orchestrator of the Dr. No score, and a superb job he did. But we recognized 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,” Norman had previously recalled. “I still think that Barry’s original orchestration is probably the best. Though there have been some pretty good ones out there.”
Court battles over ownership of theme
Interestingly enough, Norman’s website noted how the composer later had to fight in court to receive the credit he was due for creating the Bond theme, including libelous allegations that he had stolen the music from a Jamaican composer or that Barry himself had created the iconic piece.
Ultimately, however, he won all of the court battles and was even awarded damages by Britain’s High Court in 2001 — about $35,000, according to the Examiner — in a unanimous verdict that unquestionably proclaimed Norman to be the sole creator of the famed theme music.