Ennio Morricone, Soundtracks of a Maestro

One of the most prolific film composers of all time, Ennio Morricone was born in Rome, Italy and lived there his entire life writing music for the screen or not. He wrote more than 400 scores for cinema and television, as well as more than 100 classical works.

During his career in cinema, he collaborated with important European directors, like Sergio Leone, Giuseppe Tornatore, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pedro Almodóvar, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, as well as American directors such as Brian De Palma, Oliver Stone, John Carpenter, Barry Levinson, and Quentin Tarantino. 

Table of Contents

Composer ID

Name: Ennio Morricone
Nationality: Italian
Born: 1928, Rome (Italy)
Died: 2020, Rome (Italy)

Biography

Originally a trumpet player, Ennio Morricone started playing in bands and ghost writing for film and theatre.

Between 1964 and 1975 he became really popular for writing music for the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns” (shot at Cinecittà studios in Rome and in various locations in Italy and Spain), but Morricone was destined to be so much more than a composer for westerns.

Ennio Morricone - Photo by Gonzalo Tello.
Photo credit: Gonzalo Tello.

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Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

During the late 70s and the 80s and while still keeping ties with European cinema, Morricone started gradually gaining fame in the US and began writing for Hollywood films. That led to three Oscar nominations in 1978, 1986 and 1987, respectively for the films Days of Heaven, The Mission, and The Untouchables.

Although none of them managed to win, Morricone’s truly remarkable music for The Mission is considered one of the greatest soundtracks ever written, and the American Film Institute has ranked it 23rd on its list of 25 greatest film scores of all time.

Just a year after The Untouchables, in 1988, Morricone scored for Giuseppe Tornatore’s film Cinema Paradiso, a film which won the Special Jury Prize at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and the 1989 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The film would be the first of the composer’s 13 collaborations with the Italian director.

In 2007, Ennio Morricone received the Academy Honorary Awardfor his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music“. Other important honours and awards for the composer include the Italian Order of Merit for Culture and Art, three Grammy Awards, three Golden Globes, six BAFTAs, ten David di Donatello, eleven Nastro d’Argento, two European Film Awards, the Golden Lion Honorary Award, the Polar Music Prize in 2010, and a total of six Oscar nominations for Best Score.

After the American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino used material that Morricone had written for older films in at least 4 of his films, the Italian Maestro agreed to write the score for Tarantino’s 2016 film The Hateful Eight. That led to another Oscar nomination and the first win, making the 87-year-old Morricone the oldest person ever to win a competitive Oscar at the time.

Morricone’s influence on pop and film culture was massive. Among the artists who have claimed to have been influenced are Hans Zimmer, Dire Straits, Danger Mouse, Muse, Radiohead, Pet Shop Boys, The Last Shadow Puppets and Metallica.

Quentin Tarantino's films with music by Ennio Morricone.

Listen and Watch

The Ecstasy of Gold (from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly")

One of the most popular themes written by Ennio Morricone, it was featured in Sergio Leone’s 1966 film with Clint Eastwood.

It has been covered by the hard rock band Metallica.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This is probably the most recognizable “spaghetti Western” theme, from the titles of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

It has been imprinted on our minds as a music theme representing a duel.

The man with the harmonica (from "Once Upon a Time in the West")

Morricone’s score for Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the best-selling original instrumental scores in the world today, with as many as 10 million copies sold.

Cockeye's Song (from "Once Upon a Time in America")

The score for this 1984 epic crime film is notable for Morricone’s incorporation of the music of the Romanian musician Gheorghe Zamfir, who plays a pan flute.

The film was co-written and directed by Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro and James Woods.

"Here's to you" with Joan Baez

Released in 1971 on the Sacco & Vanzetti soundtrack and written by Morricone and Joan Baez as a tribute to two falsely-convicted anarchists of Italian origin, “Here’s to you” became a symbol of the fight for human rights. The song was re-interpreted in 2016 for an Amnesty International campaign to promote fight against global injustice.

Main Title from "The Untouchables"

Brian de Palma, the director of The Untouchables (with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery among others), had a good collaboration with Morricone, who also included some other memorable themes, like the End title theme and “Al Capone” in this Oscar-nominated score.

On Earth as it is in Heaven (from "The Mission")

In one of the most acclaimed soundtracks of all time, Ennio Morricone used drums, chorals, guitar and wood winds to capture the melting pot of cultures that meet in the 18th-century South American jungle where the Jesuit missionary (played by Jeremy Irons) has been sent to convert locals to Christianity.

Gabriel's Oboe (from "The Mission")

This is the theme of the oboe played in the film by Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) in an attempt to make a connection with the local Guaraní community through the power of music.

Cinema Paradiso (Final theme)

This film by Giuseppe Tornatore was a nominee for 11 British BAFTAs (including Best Original Film Score), won 5 of them, as well as the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1990. Morricone’s emotional soundtrack was truly captivating.

L'Ultima Diligenza per Red Rock (from "The Hateful Eight")

Winning the Academy Award for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino’s film “The Hateful Eight” in 2016 at the age of 87, Morricone became the oldest person at the time to win a competitive Oscar.

Ennio Morricone's Soundtrack Playlist

Where did Ennio Morricone live?

Although asked to move to Hollywood, Ennio Morricone remained a permanent resident and true fan of Rome, Italy until the end of his life. He also never learned to speak English, which didn’t seem to be an obstacle to his successful career as a composer.

Ennio Morricone's Timeline

1928
1967
1971
1979
1981
1987
1995
2004
2007
2007
06 July 2020

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