'James Bond's Iconic Theme Music Composer, Monty Norman, Dies at 94

Monty Norman, the composer who earned a spot in film history thanks to his James Bond theme, has died. He was 84. Norman also wrote music and lyrics for stage musicals, but it is the short musical phrase introduced in 1962's Dr. No that he remains best known for.

Norman was the first choice to score the entirety of Dr. No and even traveled to Jamaica to find inspiration since the story found Ian Fleming's spy visiting the Caribbean. However, director Terence Young rejected Norman's score and replaced him with John Barry. Since Barry would go on to score every Bond movie released until 1987, the Bond theme is often mistakenly credited to him. Norman's lawyers even sued publications for crediting Barry with the theme, reports The Guardian. Norman reportedly collected over £600,000 in royalties from 1976 to 1999.

After Barry was hired for Dr. No, he kept Norman's famous theme and re-arranged it with guitarist Nic Flick, transforming it into the tune known today. The theme began as a piece for a musical based on V.S. Naipaul's novel A House for Mr. Biswas. The Bond theme was released as a single, reaching number 13 on the U.K. charts in early 1963.

The Bond theme continues to be used in every 007 movie, including the latest films starring Daniel Craig. Norman attended the 2012 premiere of Skyfall. After the first screening, Norman said it was touching to see the response to his short theme. "It was very heartwarming for me at the Albert Hall premiere of Skyfall when the garage door opens and they saw the original car, and the theme started everyone began applauding and cheering – that was a marvelous moment," he said.

Norman was born Monty Noserovitch on April 4, 1928, in London. His relatives got him interested in music at a young age, buying him his first guitar when he was 16. During the 1950s, he was a singer with big bands and turned to songwriting in the early 1960s. He wrote lyrics for several stage musicals, including Make Me An Offer, Expresso Bongo, and the English-language version of Irma la Douce. Norman also wrote the scores for the films The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, and Bob Hope's Call Me Bwana. He earned a Tony nomination and an Ivor Novello Award for Songbook, a musical about a fictional songwriter who reaches Broadway during the Swinging '60s.


Norman was first married to the late actress Diana Coupland, with whom he had a daughter. His second wife was Rina Caesari.