Ennio Morricone Dead: Italian Composer of ‘The Hateful Eight’ Dies

Ennio Morricone Dead

Getty Italian composer Ennio Morricone.

Ennio Morricone, the Oscar-winning composer of more than 500 film and television scores, has died aged 91.

Morricone died in a clinic in Rome on July 6 following a fall, his lawyer Giorgio Asumma confirmed.

Morricone’s body of work includes Once Upon a Time in the West, the iconic music of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and television shows including The Simpsons and The Sopranos.

Here’s what you need to know:


The Prolific Composer Was a 6-Time Oscar Nominee

Morricone was born in Rome in 1928, the son of a professional trumpet player. The trumpet was his first instrument. From the age of 6, he started writing his own compositions.

At the time of his death, Morricone had six Oscar nominations to his name, and the sheer volume of his work — an “estimated 500 scores for films and television” — made him one of the most prolific composers in the history of Western cinema.

He won two Oscars, for Lifetime Achievement in 2007 and for Best Original Score in 2016 for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Upon receiving the honor in 2016, he said in his speech, “There is no great music without a great film that inspires it.”

The composer was classically trained, studying at Santa Cecilia Conservatory with Goffredo Petrassi from age 12. He “insisted upon personally orchestrating every note of his scores. … The sound he achieved was often unique and innovative, as in the Western scores that featured whistling, bells, electric guitars, wordless soprano vocals and full choirs,” according to Variety.

Some of the directors he worked on films with included Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Terence Malick, Roman Polanski and Brian de Palma.

Variety reported Morricone only ever spoke Italian and preferred to work in Rome. The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Twitter, “We will always remember, with infinite gratitude, the artistic genius of the Maestro #EnnioMorricone. It made us dream, feel excited, reflect, writing memorable notes that will remain indelible in the history of music and cinema.”

Film composer Hans Zimmer paid tribute to Morricone, saying he was “devastated … Ennio was an icon and icons just don’t go away, icons are forever. … His music was always outstanding, and done with great emotional fortitude and great intellectual thought.”


The Soundtrack to ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ Is Recognized Worldwide

The “coyote howl” theme from the 1966 spaghetti western film The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is instantly recognizable.

The movie was directed by late Italian film director Sergio Leone, who Morricone went to school with as a child, according to Sky News.

Working again in 1969 with Leone on Once Upon A Time In The West, Morricone “created a few simple notes on the harmonica, which became instantly associated with the film.”

His musical palette for collaborations with Leone encompassed “a strange and distinctive symphony of instruments such as surf guitars, jaw harps, gunshots, whip cracks, and ghostly whistling. The result was both bizarre and absolutely astonishing.”


Controversy Surrounded His Work With Quentin Tarantino

In 2018, Morricone threatened to sue Playboy Germany after they published disparaging remarks from an interview with Morricone regarding both Quentin Tarantino and the Academy Awards. Morricone claimed he never made the comments.

Variety reported Morricone “contributed the original score to Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’ in 2015 after having made some earlier comments about being unhappy with the way his music, originally composed for other movies, had been used in earlier Tarantino films.”

Tarantino used Morricone’s music in his films Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.

Morricone is survived by wife Maria Travia and their four children.

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