Ennio Morricone ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Blowing out 88 candles on his birthday cake today is composer Ennio Morricone, who has written the soundtracks to more than 500 movies and tee vee shows. 

Born in Rome, Morricone played trumpet and, apparently, composed his first piece at the age of 6. In 1953 he was asked to arrange for Italian radio shows. A few years later he started playing trumpet in a Jazz band, which may be why some of his soundtracks are so trumpet-laden.

Morricone became known for his soundtracks to several of Sergio Leone’s so-called Spaghetti Westerns, including my favourite western of all time, “Once Upon A Time in the West.”

Once Upon a Time in the West” is the only Western anyone ever needs to see. It contains all the Western tropes we’ve come to expect and weaves several story lines together into a broad canvas about the civilizing the west. And, for Bonus Points: Henry Fonda plays against type as the meanest sumnabitch on the planet.

Almost everyone recognizes this movie theme, reinterpreted by Apollo Four Forty:

I’ll let The WikiWackyWoo pick up the slack:

After having played trumpet in jazz bands in the 1940s, he became a studio arranger for RCA and started in 1955 ghost writing for film and theatre. Throughout his career, he composed music for artists such as Paul Anka, Mina, Milva, Zucchero and Andrea Bocelli. From 1960 to 1975, Morricone gained international fame by composing the music to westerns. His score to 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is considered one of the most influential soundtracks in history[3] and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[4] With an estimated 10 million copies sold, Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the best-selling scores worldwide.[5] He also scored seven westerns for Sergio Corbucci, Duccio Tessari‘s Ringo duology and Sergio Sollima‘s The Big Gundown and Face to Face. Morricone worked extensively for other film genres with directors such as Mauro Bolognini, Giuliano Montaldo, Roland Joffé, Roman Polanski and Henri Verneuil. His acclaimed soundtrack for The Mission (1986)[6] was certified gold in the United States. The album Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone stayed 105 weeks on the Billboard Top Classical Albums.[7]

Morricone’s best-known compositions include “The Ecstasy of Gold“, “Se Telefonando“, “Man with a Harmonica“, “Here’s to You“, the UK No. 2 single “Chi Mai“, “Gabriel’s Oboe” and “E Più Ti Penso“. He functioned during the period 1966–1980 as a main member of Il Gruppo, one of the first experimental composers collectives. In 1969, he co-founded Forum Music Village, a prestigious recording studio. From the 1970s, Morricone excelled in Hollywood, composing for prolific American directors such as Don Siegel, Mike Nichols, Brian De Palma, Barry Levinson, Oliver Stone, Warren Beatty and Quentin Tarantino. In 1977, he composed the official theme for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. He continued to compose music for European productions, such as Marco Polo, La Piovra, Nostromo, Fateless, Karol and En mai, fais ce qu’il te plait. Morricone’s music has been reused in television series, including The Simpsons and The Sopranos, and in many films, including Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.

As always, the proof is in the grooves:

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.