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Bond theme composer Monty Norman dies aged 94

Composer Monty Norman arrives at the High court in London where he was involved in a libel action over a newspaper article which reported that he did not write the James Bond theme (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)
Composer Monty Norman arrives at the High court in London where he was involved in a libel action over a newspaper article which reported that he did not write the James Bond theme (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Composer Monty Norman, who wrote the theme for the James Bond films, has died at the age of 94.

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.

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”.

Monty Norman's website announcing his death
The news was announced on Norman’s website (Screengrab/PA)

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 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.

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.