Ennio Morricone, who created the coyote-howl theme for the iconic Spaghetti Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and the soundtracks such classic Hollywood gangster movies as “The Untouchables,” has died.
Morricone’s longtime lawyer, Giorgio Assumma, said the Maestro, as he was known, died early Monday in a Rome hospital of complications following a fall, in which he broke a leg.
During a career that spanned decades and earned him an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2007, Morricone collaborated with some of Hollywood’s and Italy’s top directors, including on “The Untouchables” by Brian de Palma, “The Hateful Eight” by Quentin Tarantino and “The Battle of Algiers” by Gillo Pontecorvo.
The Tarantino film would win him the Oscar for best original score in 2016. In accepting that award, Morricone told the audience at the ceremony: “There is no great music without a great film that inspires it.”
In total, he produced more than 400 original scores for feature films. His iconic so-called Spaghetti Western movies saw him work closely with the late Italian film director Sergio Leone.
Morricone was credited with nothing less than reinventing music for Western movies through his partnership with Leone, a former classmate. Their work together included the “Dollars” trilogy starring Clint Eastwood as a quick-shooting, lonesome gunman: “A Fistful of Dollars” in 1964, “For a Few Dollars More” in 1965 and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” a year later.
Morricone was celebrated for crafting just a few notes, like those played on a harmonica in Leone’s 1984 movie “Once Upon A Time in America,” which would instantly become the film’s motif.
“Inspiration does not exist,” Morricone said in a 2004 interview with The Associated Press. “What exists is an idea, a minimal idea that the composer develops at the desk, and that small idea becomes something important.”
In a later interview, with Italian state TV, Morricone cited “study, discipline and curiosity” as the keys to his creative genius. “Writing music, like all creative arts, comes from a long path” along life’s experiences, he said.
In his late 80s, Morricone provided the score for “The Hateful Eight,” Tarantino’s 2015 70-mm epic and the first time in decades that he had composed new music for a Western. It was also the first time Tarantino had used an original score.
In accepting Morricone’s Golden Globe for the music in his place, Tarantino called him his favorite composer. “When I say ‘favorite composer,’ I don’t mean movie composer. … I’m talking about Mozart, I’m talking about Beethoven, I’m talking about Schubert,” Tarantino said.