Oscar-Winning Music Composer, Ennio Morricone, Passes Away at 91

Ennio Morricone
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Ennio Morricone
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Photo Credit: Sven-Sebastian Sajak / CC by 3.0

Ennio Morricone, an Italian composer for more than 500 films, has passed away at age 91.

The composer is perhaps most well-known for his work on Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western films. But Morricone composed scores for over 500 films in the course of his career. His lawyer confirmed his death at a hospital early this morning. Morricone was admitted last week after falling and fracturing a femur.

Ennio Morricone won his first competitive Academy Award for the score for “The Hateful Eight.”

He was nominated for five other Academy Awards throughout his lifetime. Morricone also won two Golden Globes, four Grammys, and dozens of international awards. His unique blend of music and sound effects in the “Dollars Trilogy” became an iconic score. Morricone also scored “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “Once Upon a Time in America” for Leone.

When asked why the score for “A Fistful of Dollars” made such an impact in 2006, he replied, “I don’t know. It’s the worst film Leone made and the worst score I did.”

The New York Times says Morricone often holed up in his palazzo in Rome to write music. He composed not at a piano but at a desk, hearing the music in his mind and writing it with a pencil for all orchestra parts. Morricone was one of the most prolific composers in the world, sometimes scoring 20 or more films a year.

Ennio Morricone wrote around 100 concert pieces in his lifetime. He also orchestrated music for singers, including Joan Baez, and Italian star Mina.

He never learned to speak English and never left Rome to compose. For years, he refused to fly anywhere, though he eventually gave in to compose. His first visit to the United States came in 2007 at the age of 78.

Morricone eventually performed concerts in New York at Radio City Music Hall and Los Angeles. He received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement at the end of that tour. Morricone expressed sincere gratitude at the time “to all the directors who had faith in me.” He was born in Rome in 1928, writing his first composition at the age of six.

Some of Ennio Morricone’s most famous film credits in the last 50 years include:

  • Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964)
  • “For a Few Dollars More” (1965)
  • “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (1966)
  • Édouard Molinaro’s “La Cage aux Folles” (1978)
  • John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982)
  • Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” (1987)
  • Roman Polanski’s “Frantic” (1988)
  • Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso” (1988)
  • Wolfgang Petersen’s “In the Line of Fire” (1993)
  • Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” (2015)