Ennio Morricone in 2012
Photo: Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Redferns/Getty Images
Legendary GRAMMY-Winning Film Composer Ennio Morricone Has Died At 91
Ennio Morricone, the prolific Italian composer responsible for the scores to over 500 films—including many of Sergio Leone's beloved spaghetti westerns of the '60s—has died at age 91. According to the New York Times, he died on Monday, July 6, at a hospital in his hometown of Rome, after being admitted there last week after a fall.
The GRAMMY winner's iconic soundtracks were filled with literal bells and whistles and other eclectic sounds that transported moviegoers to the Wild West and beyond. Morricone created a powerful partnership with Italian director, scoring the Dollars trilogy (1964-66), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)—all starring Clint Eastwood—Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and more of his films.
While there are far too many to list, his other notable scores include Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (1988), Brian De Palma's Untouchables (1987) and Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (2015), the latter of which earned him an Oscar and a Golden Globe, plus a GRAMMY nomination. The Untouchables score earned him a GRAMMY win at the 1988 GRAMMYs. He was also honored with the Recording Academy's Special Merit Award in 2014 and received seven career GRAMMY nominations.
Tarantino, like many other directors and musicians, was inspired by the Roman director's majestic soundscapes. Before The Hateful Eight, Tarantino used his music in Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds.
The power of his compositions was felt outside of the films he scored and even and the movie industry. According to Rolling Stone, "JAY-Z, Metallica, Radiohead, the Ramones, Muse, Gnarls Barkley and many others claim[ed] his music as either sample or influence or both. He was also the rare composer to inspire listeners to buy soundtracks, selling over 70 million records over the course of his career."
As the New York Times explains, one of these inspirations came from his hit "The Ecstasy of Gold," the theme song for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Metallica has used it as opening music during their concerts and the Ramones used it to close theirs. The GRAMMY-winning classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma recorded a rendition of it on his 2004 album dedicated to the composer, Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone.
Morricone also worked on TV scores as a classical composer, and as studio arranger and composer at RCA. He wrote music for Joan Baez, Paul Anka, Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Andrea Bocelli, Sting and more.
Born in Rome on Nov. 10, 1928, he lived there his whole life. Despite his Hollywood fame, he only first traveled to the United States in 2007 at 78 years old and never learned English.
"He sometimes scored 20 or more films a year, often working only from a script before screening the rushes. Directors marveled at his range—tarantellas, psychedelic screeches, swelling love themes, tense passages of high drama, stately evocations of the 18th century or eerie dissonances of the 20th—and at the ingenuity of his silences: He was wary of too much music, of overloading an audience with emotions," the Times states.