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ENNIO MORRICONE,
1928-2020

Ennio Morricone, one of the most influential and prolific film composers in history whose work can be heard in about 500 films, died today in Rome. He was 91.

His lawyer, Giorgio Assumma, told the Italian news agency ANSA that Morricone had been hospitalized last week after fracturing his femur.

Initially famous for scoring Sergio Leone’s 1960s spaghetti Westerns in Italy, Morricone demonstrated a unquestioned command of film scoring with a broad range of work, Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso, Roland Joffe’s The Mission, Leone’s 2014 Once Upon a Time in America and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight among his most celebrated. He won his first competitive Oscar for the 2015 Tarantino film; eight years earlier, he received a lifetime achievement Oscar.

From 1965-73, he wrote nearly 150 scores, but it was three specific films upon which his reputation was built: A Fistful of Dollars in 1964, For a Few Dollars More in 1965 and, a year later,  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The classically trained Morricone made his scores stand out as characters in their own right, incorporating sound effects such as gunshots and whipcracks with themes that could be played by a full orchestra, a surf-rock guitarist or simply whistled.

His scores developed cult followings and Hugo Montenegro had a #2 hit in 1968 for RCA with his version of the theme from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” A song from that film, “The Ecstasy of Gold,” was used by The Ramones and Metallica at their concerts and Jay-Z sampled it on "Blueprint 2." While a variety of artists—The Ventures, The Pogues, John Zorn, Joan Baez, Andrea Boccelli, etc.—recorded his music for decades, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma made the maestro a classical star with the 2004 album Plays Morricone: It spent more than two years on the classical chart.

Morricone, who wrote his first score in 1961 and arranged Italian pop hits in the ‘50s and ‘60s,  preferred to compose and record in Rome, speaking only in Italian and working at a desk rather than a piano. Equally adept at creating lush romantic scores influenced by 18th century works and modernist takes on dissonance and experimentation, Morricone created well-received work from romances, crime dramas and comedies.

The films for which he received Oscar noms reveal the breadth of his work:  the 1916-set Texas love story Days of Heaven; the Chicago Prohibition era crime drama The Untouchables; Warren Beatty's Bugsy; The Mission, set in a rainforest in the 1700s with a priest as its main character; and Malèna, a love story in Sicily during the war.

He did not travel to the U.S. until 2007 when he gave concerts at Radio City Music Hall and the United Nations. In 2014, Morricone canceled a concert tour of the U.S. due to a back injury.

 

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