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Libel battle over Bond theme

The Bond theme has become one of the film's trademarks
The Bond theme has become one of the film's trademarks  

LONDON, England -- Award-winning composer Monty Norman said he was "devastated" and "distressed" after a newspaper reported he had not written the James Bond theme, a court heard.

Norman, who attended his second day in court after pursuing a lawsuit against a 1997 article published by the Sunday Times, said on Tuesday that the article was "cruel".

"It was a scurrilous and slovenly researched article that rubbished my whole career -- all 53 years of it. It also said that the piece of music that I was best known for, had been written by John Barry (a fellow composer)," he said.

The tune -- described to the High Court as "one of the most famous pieces of music in the world" -- first gripped the public imagination in the 1962 movie Dr No.

Norman's lawyer, James Price, told the courts that the article put down his client by suggesting he deserved nothing from the original Bond tune except for a snatch of a much-altered melody line

Price said that the article damaged his client's reputation by suggesting that for 40 years he had been dishonestly taking the credit and royalties for a composition that was not his.

Norman, who first trained as a singer and earned his living with bands on TV, radio and on stage, claims to have written the theme entirely himself.

The article reported that Norman gave Barry permission to write the original Bond theme "on certain terms," but Norman describes such accusations as "monstrous".

Apart from Dr No, Norman has also written music for stage and film musicals such as Expresso Bongo, Irma La Douce, Songbook and Poppy, and had won Ivor Novello, Evening Standard and Laurence Olivier awards.

Barry, whose soundtracks include many Bond films, Born Free, Zulu and Midnight Cowboy, was present at the trial against the Sunday newspaper, which had referred to him as "Oscar Winning".

Norman told the courts: "My feeling is that the article was saying 'here is this nobody, so he could not have written it. It must have been this somebody who had written it."

Price told the jury Norman had composed the soundtrack for Dr. No, the 1962 film that provided audiences with the debut of the James Bond theme, and had won four awards in recognition of his musical work.

The Times Newspapers deny libel and will continue to press that Barry was the theme's original composer.

James Bond
Royal Courts of Justice
Dr. No (1962)

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