Monty Norman, who helped launch the James Bond franchise by composing the character’s beloved theme music, has died at the age of 94 following a brief illness. His family confirmed the news of his death to BBC, who first broke the story.
Norman was born in London on April 4, 1928. The son of Latvian immigrants, he was forced to evacuate the city during World War II but later returned during The Blitz. After serving in the Royal Air Force, he began pursuing a career in music. Norman first worked as a performer, singing with many prominent big band music acts and eventually sharing the stage with other top comedians and musicians of his time.
In the 1950s, Norman began to transition from performing to composing. He wrote lyrics for a variety of successful West End musicals, including “Make Me an Offer” and “Expresso Bongo,” and also wrote songs for various recording artists including Bob Hope and Count Basie with mixed results.
But his biggest achievement came in 1962, when he was commissioned to compose the music for a new spy movie called “Dr. No.” Terence Young’s film was the first adaptation of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, with Sean Connery making his debut as the soon-to-be-iconic secret agent. The film launched a franchise that quickly became bigger than anyone could have imagined. Sixty years and seven actors later, the film series is still going strong, and producers are currently hard at work casting an eighth actor to play 007.
The series’ ability to maintain such a strong following despite changing actors is a testament to the unique stylistic choices that people associate with the character. From Bond’s vodka martinis to his sleek Aston Martins, the character is larger than any individual actor. One of 007’s most iconic traits is the theme song that Norman wrote for “Dr. No,” which continued to be used throughout subsequent Bond films.
Though Norman is best known for his James Bond theme song, he also composed music for the films “The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll” and “Call Me Bwana,” as well as the 1976 miniseries “Dickens of London.”