It is with sadness that we share the news that Monty Norman passed away on July 11, 2022, following a brief illness, according to a statement published on Monday on Norman’s official website.
Born in the East End of London in 1928 as Monty Noserovitch to Jewish parents, Norman received his first guitar at the age of 16. Before writing songs for early British rockers Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele and composing for stage musicals like “Make Me an Offer,” “Expresso Bongo,” “Songbook,” and “Poppy,” he performed with big bands and shared a variety double act with comedian Benny Hill.
Norman was hired by producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli to compose a theme for the first James Bond film, “Dr. No,” released in 1962.
He drew on a piece he had written for a proposed musical adaptation of V.S. Naipaul’s “A House for Mr. Biswas,” shifting the key riff from sitar to electric guitar. The result twangy, propulsive, menacing has been used in all 25 Bond thrillers.
Producers hired composer John Barry to rearrange the theme, and Barry was widely assumed to have written it to Norman’s chagrin. Barry, who died in 2011, went on to compose scores for almost a dozen Bond films, including “Goldfinger” and “You Only Live Twice.”
Norman went to court to assert his authorship, suing the Sunday Times newspaper for libel over a 1997 article asserting the theme was composed by Barry. He won in 2001 and was awarded 30,000 pounds in damages.