Monty Norman dead: Man behind James Bond theme tune dies – tributes pour in

Monty Norman on creating the James Bond theme in 2017

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Norman began his career singing in big bands before forging a career writing for musicals and films such as Songbook, Poppy and Make Me An Offer. But he became best known for the unmistakable guitar riff which accompanies the Bond movies to this day. 

A statement on his official website said: “It is with sadness we share the news that Monty Norman died on 11th July 2022 after a short illness”.

Jazz musician and broadcaster Jay Rayner led early tributes, tweeting: “I’d known Monty Norman since I was a kid. He was a lovely man, endlessly encouraging as I took my first steps into the world of music. 

“He composed a slew of fabulous musicals, and arguably the greatest theme tune of all time, but wore it all lightly.”

Seen as a huge talent in the industry, Norman was born Monty Noserovitch in Stepney, east London, to Jewish parents and was evacuated from London during the early days of the Blitz.

Aged 16, his mother bought him a guitar, having knocked the seller’s price down from £17 to £15, and he soon found the music of the Beatles and Eric Clapton.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, he served as a singer for big bands including those led by Cyril Stapleton, Ted Heath and Nat Temple, and appeared on variety show line-ups alongside comedy acts including Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan.

He and funnyman Benny Hill later took a joint variety show on the road, taking turns in the headline slot based on whether the town they were in preferred comedy or music.

Transitioning into composing, he wrote songs for Sir Cliff Richard and early rock and roller Sir Tommy Steele, and lyrics for musicals.

He worked on the stage shows Make Me An Offer and Expresso Bongo, often regarded as the first rock and roll musical.

But Norman is best known for scoring the first James Bond film, 1962’s Dr No starring Sir Sean Connery, which included the famous theme which has recurred throughout the 24 subsequent films.

However, the producers were not happy with Norman’s arrangement and drafted in a young John Barry to rearrange the piece.

Barry – whose own credits include Out Of Africa, Born Free and Midnight Cowboy – later claimed it was actually he who had written the theme but Norman won a libel action against The Sunday Times for publishing a similar allegation.

It was only after switching the main riff in the famous soundtrack from a sitar to an electric guitar, Norman knew he had captured the essence of 007.

“His sexiness, his mystery, his ruthlessness – it’s all there in a few notes.,” he later recalled.

He continued to work into the 1980s and beyond with Songbook in both the West End and Broadway winning Evening Standard, Olivier and Ivor Novello best musical awards.

That decade also saw his pantomime-style musical Poppy run for more than a year at the Barbican and Adelphi theatres in London and win a Swet – now the Olivier – for best musical.

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