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. But he became best known for the unmistakable guitar riff that accompanies Bond films to this day.
A statement on his official website said: ‘It is with sadness that we share the news that Monty Norman passed away on July 11, 2022 after a short illness.
Jazz musician and broadcaster Jay Rayner led the first tributes, tweeting, “I knew Monty Norman since I was a kid. He was a lovely man, who constantly encouraged me as I took my first steps into the world of music.
“He composed a host of fabulous musicals, and arguably the greatest theme music of all time, but he took it all lightly.”
Considered a huge talent in the industry, Norman was born Monty Noserovitch in Stepney, east London to Jewish parents and was evacuated from London at the start of the Blitz.
At 16, his mother bought him a guitar, having knocked the seller’s price down from £17 to £15, and he quickly discovered the music of the Beatles and Eric Clapton.
In the 1950s and early 1960s he sang for major bands, including those led by Cyril Stapleton, Ted Heath and Nat Temple, and appeared on variety shows alongside comedic actors such as Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan.
He and comedian Benny Hill then hosted a joint variety show on the road, taking turns in the headline depending on which city they were in the comedy or favorite music.
Moving on to composition, he wrote songs for Sir Cliff Richard and early rock and roll Sir Tommy Steele, as well as lyrics for musicals.
He worked on the stage shows Make Me An Offer and Expresso Bongo, often considered the first rock and roll musical.
But Norman is best known for scoring the first James Bond film, 1962’s Dr No starring Sir Sean Connery, which included the famous theme that recurred throughout the next 24 films.
However, the producers were unhappy with Norman’s arrangement and brought in a young John Barry to revamp the piece.
Barry – whose own credits include Out Of Africa, Born Free and Midnight Cowboy – later claimed he was in fact the one who wrote the theme, but Norman won a libel action against the Sunday Times for publishing a similar claim.
It wasn’t until he changed the famous soundtrack’s main riff from a sitar to an electric guitar that Norman knew he had captured the essence of 007.
“Her sex appeal, her mystery, her ruthlessness – it’s all there in a few notes.”, he later recalled.
He continued to work through the 1980s and beyond with Songbook in the West End and on Broadway, winning Evening Standard, Olivier and Ivor Novello Best Music awards.
This decade also saw his pantomime-style musical Poppy run for over a year at the Barbican and Adelphi theaters in London and win a Swet – now the Olivier – for Best Musical.