It doesn’t matter which of the James Bond movies you mention, it’s almost assured that once you bring up the subject of 007, the iconic theme tune starts playing in the minds of everyone in the room. Thanks to Monty Norman’s musical prowess, that simple but deadly musical staple has linked the entire history of the Bond franchise from day one. It’s a fact we reverently, but bittersweetly remember today, as Norman has died at the age of 94.
There are no extensive details provided at the moment, as Monty Norman’s official website has only provided a simple announcement of his death today. Here’s how that statement reads:
Born Monty Noserovitch in 1928, the English composer was known for musicals like Irma La Douce, as well as a singing talent who made the rounds on the variety show circuit. His big break, naturally, was with the release of 1962’s Dr. No; as a tune he’d written for an un-produced musical became the first musical statement in the world of 007.
Originally, the song “Good Sign, Bad Sign” was written as part of Monty Norman’s work on A House for Mr. Biswas. After that show failed to be produced on stage, Norman apparently submitted a derivation of that tune as the “James Bond Theme,” which was later rearranged by composer John Barry. This led to a bit of a problem for Barry, as he claimed that he actually wrote the song himself, leading to Monty Norman to successfully win two libel cases, and an eventual credit that stands to this day.
Norman’s work was featured early and often in the franchise, as the 1962 film opens with the “James Bond Theme” playing right after Commander Bond’s first shot into the gun barrel. It shortly gives way to “Three Blind Mice,” as Dr. No never had a traditional Bond song per se. However, as you’ll see below, perhaps the most important time the song played was when Sean Connery familiarized himself with worldwide audiences through a very important catchphrase:
The influence of the “James Bond Theme” has been felt throughout the 24 movies that came after Dr. No used it to introduce us all to Bond, James Bond. Most recently, Billie Eilish and Finneas’s title song for No Time To Die included their own version of a 007 easter egg in the tune, with Monty Norman’s music quoted within.
Composer Hans Zimmer has also paid homage to the "James Bond Theme," which has been referenced, covered, and reinterpreted by so many artists in the decades that passed. As he took on the duties to write the music that closed the Daniel Craig era of James Bond, one of the most important aspects he wanted to include in No Time To Die was the killer 007 guitar riffs that were synonymous with the man himself.
While John Barry certainly deserves credit for the arrangement, Monty Norman is the man that gave the tune its roots to grow from. As the 60th anniversary of James Bond has us looking back at the music of 007, it's the perfect time to reflect on this historical fact. But again, it is a bittersweet celebration, as the legend who made it all happened has left the stage once and for all.
We here at CinemaBlend would like to voice our deepest sympathies to Monty Norman’s family and friends during this period of grief and reflection. His contributions to cinematic and musical history, as well as the crucial key to the history of the best James Bond songs ever, cannot be understated. That song, much like diamonds, will truly be valued forever.
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Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.