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 we share the news that Monty Norman died on 11th July 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, and starred Sean Connery in the lead role. Norman said he based the distinctive 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 created 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 at the composer; Norman went to court, winning an action for libel against the Sunday Times in 2001, to defend his credit.
Norman, born Monty Noserovitch in 1928, grew up the son of Jewish immigrants in London’s East End, and became a singer for numerous popular big bands in the 1950s and early 60s. He moved into writing songs for musicals in the late 50s, contributing lyrics on 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 musical Belle in 1961, about the notorious Crippen murders, which led to his being asked by Bond producer “Cubby” Broccoli to supply 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 songwriter from Liverpool called 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 70s sitcom Bless This House, who died in 2006.