James Bond theme composer Monty Norman dies aged 94

Monty Norman grew up in the East End of London. Credit: PA

Monty Norman, the prolific composer behind the iconic James Bond theme, has died at the age of 94.

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.

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”.

Norman was born Monty Noserovitch in Stepney, east London, to Jewish parents and was evacuated from London during the early days of the Blitz.

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Aged 16, his mother bought him a guitar, having knocked the seller’s price down from £17 to £15. 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 will be most widely remembered for his Bond theme, commissioned for 1962's Dr No, which was later used throughout the series.

The producers, however, 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.