Monty Norman, composer of the instantly recognizable James Bond theme music, has died aged 94. A statement on his website said: “It is with sadness that we share the news that Monty Norman passed away on July 11, 2022 after a short illness.”
Norman’s most famous work was created as part of the score for the first Bond film, Dr No, which was released in 1962, starring Sean Connery. Norman said he based the signature rolling phrase, which first appeared as part of a medley during the film’s opening, on an earlier piece called Good Sign, Bad Sign, which he made for a musical adaptation of VS Naipul’s A House. for Mr Biswas. A jazz arrangement by John Barry for the film led to Barry often being mistakenly identified with the composer; Norman went to court and won a libel lawsuit against the Sunday Times in 2001 to defend his honor.
Born Monty Noserovitch in 1928, Norman grew up as the son of Jewish immigrants in London’s East End and became the lead singer of many popular big bands in the 1950s and early 1960s. In the late 1950s, he began writing songs for musicals, contributing lyrics to Make Me an Offer (a West End musical version of Irma la Douce), and both music and lyrics to Wolf Mankowitz’s Expresso Bongo.
He also worked on the 1961 musical Belle, about the infamous Crippen murders, which led to him being asked by Bond producer “Cubby” Broccoli to provide the score for Dr No. Later screen work included the Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana and the 1976 TV series Dickens of London. Norman also returned to musicals, most notably Songbook in 1979, about a fictional Liverpool songwriter named Mooney Shapiro, who makes it on Broadway before returning to Britain in time for the swinging ’60s.
Norman was the first husband of actor Diana Coupland, best known for the 1970s sitcom Bless This House, who died in 2006.