Ennio Morricone was born on November 10, 1928 in Trastevere, Rome, Lazio, Italy. He began studying music at Rome's Conservatory of Santa Cecilia at the age of 12. Urged to concentrate on composition by his instructors, he supported himself by playing trumpet in jazz bands, and then worked for Italy's national radio network after graduating from the conservatory. He didn't begin scoring films until the early 1960s, and didn't begin attracting international notice until he began collaborating with Sergio Leone, starting with “Fistful of Dollars” in 1964 even though Morricone had previously worked on other films with other directors.
Even though his compositions for Spaghetti westerns only comprised a phase of Morricone's career, for many his work in this field remains his best and most innovative. Morricone amplified the film's plots and drama through ingenious use of diverse arrangements and instrumentation. Jaw harps, dissonant harmonicas, dancing piccolos, bombastic church organs, eerie whistling, thundering trumpets, oddly sung gunfighter ballads, and ghostly vocal choruses all became trademarks of the Morricone-Leone productions, and was embellished into the Spaghetti western genre as a whole. The influence of surf rock was felt in the low, ominous twanging guitars, which reflected (intentionally or unintentionally) the sound of contemporary recordings by the Ventures, Duane Eddy, the Shadows, and John Barry. Morricone's most famous composition, the theme to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, made number two in the U.S. when it was covered by Hugo Montenegro.
Even while he was busy with collaborations with Leone, Morricone found time for various other film projects, such as the classic “Battle of Algiers” and “Burn!” By the 1970s, Morricone was winding down his involvement with both Leone and the Spaghetti western, working with numerous other directors all over the world. Grand orchestration and memorable motifs were commonplace in Morricone's work; Warren Beatty, for instance, once told the Los Angeles Times that "There's nobody better than Ennio to create a haunting theme." His scores also began to utilize more contemporary electronic influences, with mixed results.
Age has not slowed Morricone in the least. In fact, the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s saw his commercial success and widespread recognition at an all-time peak. He garnered an Academy Award nomination for “The Mission” in 1986. Since then he's worked for such top directors as Pedro Almodovar, Brian DePalma, Roman Polanski, Mike Nichols, Oliver Stone, and Barry Levinson. Cinema Paradiso is probably the most renowned of his recent scores.
A 5-time nominated composer for the Academy Award, He finally garnered an Oscar for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music. To any Spaghetti western fan and most film fans Ennio Morricone is probably the most famous film composer of the 20th century.
Today we celebrate his 85th birthday.