Obituary: Soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone dead at 91

Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone at the Estadio Bicentenario de la Florida on Nov. 26, 2013. Courtesy: Gonzallo Tello/Wikicommons.

Celebrated soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone died in Rome on Monday, July 6. He was 91. The famed composer scored iconic soundtracks for a number of spaghetti Westerns, most famously director Sergio Leone’s 1966 classic “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” starring Clint Eastwood.

Born in Rome, Morricone began his career as a trumpeter until becoming a studio arranger for RCA Victor in 1955. Morricone scored soundtracks for more than 400 television shows and movies, as well as composing more than a hundred classical works.

Morricone’s music is so iconic that it often serves as a kind of audio meme, capturing a cinematic mood with a single musical phrase that instantly evokes that mood. The whistle at the beginning of the theme to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” meant to evoke the howl of a coyote, provides the perfect example. The iconic tune, which has been replayed everywhere from “The Simpsons” to “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” helped the soundtrack reach No. 4 on the Billboard charts.

Ennio Morricone composed soundtracks for a who’s who of directors including Brian De Palma, Oliver Stone, Warren Beatty, John Carpenter, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Terrence Malick and Quentin Tarantino. His music has been championed by everyone from skronk-jazz legend John Zorn to Gnarls Barkley, whose biggest hit, “Crazy” was inspired by Morricone.

He won Grammy awards for “The Untouchables,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” and Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” which also earned him an Oscar for Best Original Music Score in 2016.  The composer was induced into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

Morricone’s other notable soundtracks include Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso,” Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” French trilogy “La Cage aux Folles” and John Carpenter’s horror film “The Thing.”

The prolific composer bucked the conventions of the 1960s, which dictated that the music should not upstage the actors on the screen, by using a wide array of distinctive-sounding instruments and strange sound effects to enact his iconic melodies. Morricone’s soundtracks, particularly in the Westerns he scored for Leone, influenced other directors to feature music more prominently in their movies. John Williams’ iconic themes for both “Jaws” and “Star Wars” were heavily influenced by his work.

Morricone never learned English and didn’t visit America for the first time until 2007, when he toured the States for a month, appearing at various festivals of his films.

He was hospitalized in failing health last week after falling and fracturing his femur. Morricone is survived by his wife of 64 years, Maria Travia, his four children and four grandchildren.

Tributes to the composer are flooding Twitter:

Follow writer David Gill at and Instagram/songotaku.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *