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Ennio Morricone, 2015
Ennio Morricone at Festhalle Frankfurt, 2015Photography Sven-Sebastian Sajak, via

Legendary film composer Ennio Morricone has died aged 91

The Italian musician suffered a fall a few days ago

Ennio Morricone, the legendary Italian composer who defined the sound of ‘spaghetti western’ cinema, has died aged 91.

The Guardian reports that Morricone had broken his femur after suffering a fall a few days ago, and died at a clinic in Rome. His lawyer, Giorgio Assumma, confirmed the news.

Although best known for scoring westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Morricone’s career was far more wide-ranging, having composed over 500 scores for a variety of genres and worked with pop artists from Paul Anka to the Pet Shop Boys.

Born in Rome in 1928, Morricone began his career arranging scores for theatre, TV, and radio, eventually being hired by RCA Italy. He was arranged and wrote pop songs for the likes of Paul Anka, Françoise Hardy, and Demis Roussos, while mantaining an interest in avant-garde music through his work with the experimental and improvisational collective Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza.

In the 1950s, he began ghostwriting film scores, eventually establishing his own names and credits. During the 1960s, he worked with Sergio Leone on the Dollars trilogy, starring Clint Eastwood. His scores were hugely successful, with Morricone’s decision to punctuate his symphonies with sounds like coyote howls and whistles gave them an unconventional edge.

“I was trying to capture the mood of a film,” Morricone said of his approach to scoring those films, speaking to Dazed in 2006. “On A Fistful of Dollars, I was thinking about a peasant who lives in the countryside and listens to a faraway sound; a nostalgic sound.”

These scores were an influence on Quentin Tarantino, who used Morricone’s music in films like Kill Bill, Death ProofInglorious Basterds, and Django Unchained, the latter of which also featured an original song by Morricone. He was also hired to score The Hateful Eight, Morricone’s first western score for 34 years. It earned him an Oscar for Best Motion Picture Score – surprisingly, his first Academy Award despite several career nominations, although he’d previously been given a lifetime achievement award in 2007.

Throughout his career, Morricone worked with many acclaimed directors in Hollywood (Terrence Malick, John Carpenter, Brian De Palma) and in Europe (Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Dario Argento, Pedro Almodóvar). He also worked with pop artists like the Pet Shop Boys (“It Couldn't Happen Here”) and k.d. lang (“Love Affair”).

Morricone frequently toured his work, and was conducting his orchestra as recently as 2019. Throughout his life, he sold 70 million albums, and won four Grammys, three Golden Globes, and six Baftas, alongside his Academy Awards.