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Ennio Morricone directed a concert in Rome in January. (Photo: Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse, via Associated Press)

Ennio Morricone, award-winning composer of innovative music for cinema, dies at age 91

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" solidified Italian composer Ennio Morricone's international fame, already developing through his creation of atmospheric scores for preceding spaghetti westerns. His approximately 500 works include film soundtracks by a Who’s Who of Oscar winners and international directors, including "The Mission" and "Cinema Paradiso."

The Italian composer, orchestrator, conductor, and former trumpet player wrote in a wide range of musical styles. Since 1961, Morricone composed over 400 scores for cinema and television, as well as over 100 classical works.

Often his orchestral compositions featured operatic voices or soaring, yet haunting choirs, always effective on listeners without regard to the language they speak.

His artistry and long career -- he was still conducting orchestras this year -- made him one of the world’s most versatile and influential creators of music for the modern cinema. In 2018, Morricone conducted concerts on his "60 Years of Music World Tour." He died on Monday in Rome, following complications from a fall last week in which he fractured his femur. He was 91.

His score for "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" (1966) -- considered one of the most influential soundtracks in history -- is among his several successful collaborations with director Sergio Leone, including the 1960s "man with no name" series with the young Clnt Eastwood.

Morricone's glittering filmography extends through more than 70 award-winning films, including all of Leone’s films, all of Giuseppe Tornatore’s films from the much-loved "Cinema Paradiso" onwards, "The Battle Of Algiers," Dario Argento’s "Animal Trilogy," "Days Of Heaven," "The Thing," "The Mission," "The Untouchables," "Bugsy," and "Ripley’s Game."In 2016, he won the Oscar for his score for Quentin Tarantino’s film "The Hateful Eight," making him, at the time, the oldest person ever to win a competitive Oscar. He has been nominated for a further six Academy Awards.

Born in 1928, Morricone was, early in life, an enthusiastic soccer player and passionate AS Roma fan. But he quickly turned to music, playing trumpet in jazz bands in the 1940s.

Born in 1928, Morricone was, early in life, an enthusiastic soccer player and passionate AS Roma fan. But he quickly turned to music, playing trumpet in jazz bands in the 1940s. Then he became a studio arranger and started ghost writing for film and theater.

Andreas Wiseman writes in the "Deadline":

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"From 1966 to 1980, he was a main member of Il Gruppo, one of the first experimental composers collectives and from the 1970s his career took off in Hollywood, composing for directors including Don Siegel, Mike Nichols, Brian De Palma, Barry Levinson, Oliver Stone, Warren Beatty, Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter.

"His European collaborators also included Bernardo Bertolucci, Roland Joffé, Roman Polanski and Henry Veneuil. The cinema great would also compose music for singers such as Zucchero and Andrea Boccelli."

"By 2016, Morricone had sold more than 70 million records worldwide and a year later he received the Academy’s Honorary Award 'for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.'"

Over the span of his storied career, Ennio Morricone won three Grammys, three Golden Globes, six BAFTAs, ten David di Donatellows and two European Film Awards.

Even coming in the middle of the night, the news of his death began an avalanche of tributes online, including these:

Edgar Wright, English director, screenwriter and producer, said: “Where to even begin with iconic composer Ennio Morricone? He could make an average movie into a must see, a good movie into art, and a great movie into legend. He hasn’t been off my stereo my entire life. What a legacy of work he leaves behind. RIP.”

C. Robert Cargill, American screenwriter, novelist, podcast host, and former film critic, wrote: "Ennio Morricone. You always know when it's a Morricone score, even before you see his name. With just a few notes he evokes images of a whole genre. There aren't any others like him. One of the titans is gone."

Don Winslow, NYT bestselling author & Raymond Chandler Award recipient, said: "Over the next few days, a lot of good people are going to tell you how great Ennio Morricone was and how much he meant to film music. But I would like to invite you to just listen to this for yourself."


Larry Wines