One of the greatest living film composers whose career spanned decades, continents, and genres has left us.
Ennio Morricone, a legendary composer often associated with the “spaghetti westerns” of Sergio Leone but whose work encompassed much more than that, has died at the age of 91 in his native Italy. While he may forever be “the man who did the music for The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly“, he wrote the music for over 400 movies, and at least a hundred concert works that stood independent of his film scoring career.
But it’s those hundreds of film scores, naturally, for which we’ll always remember him.
His collaboration with Leone was one of those legendary partnerships between film directors and composers; Morricone scores every film Leone directed. Which brings us to the piece that was so distinctive, it was actually a hit on its own once the movie’s soundtrack was released in 1966.
With Morricone’s own frequent collaborator, conductor Bruno Nicolai, at the podium, the theme from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly set a new sound for western films, one often imitated even now – and a style that could only have originated from outside Hollywood, which tended to give flowing orchestral scores even to westerns. With Leone’s small budget, however, there was no chance of anything that fancy, and Morricone’s music rewrote the movie music stylebook.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Morricone and Leone continued working together.
Of course, not everything Morricone worked on was necessarily high art (or even high earning) – I’d be remiss if I didn’t drop in one of my personal favorites, the main theme from 1967’s Operation Kid Brother (a.k.a. OK Connery, a copyright-skirting James Bond parody starring Neil Connery, brother of…well…you know).
It wasn’t long before Hollywood was trying to enlist Morricone for bigger-budget fare, and he was happy to oblige.
Attempting to chronicle every nook, cranny, and musical whistle-stop of Morricone’s career could keep us here all week – and really, with his amazing career, perhaps one article a day for a week might have been more appropriate, and yet would still just barely scratch the surface. Chances are, you probably already have a favorite Morricone score, and it may not be what this author would pick. But as we look back at his career, there’s one piece that seems almost too appropriate, from my own favorite Morricone score.
What were your favorites from this legendary composer’s storied career?