Ten years ago, as a freshman at Lasell College, I frequented the campus library to check-out movies that I believed were essential watches for an aspiring film-buff like me. Among those movies were the Spaghetti Westerns by Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). While I was already familiar with Clint Eastwood, this was my introduction to appreciating Sergio Leone. But it was also my introduction to the man I would eventually declare to be the greatest living soundtrack artist: Ennio Morricone.
Immediately after screening these movies, I would download the soundtracks and listen to them on repeat. One that left a major impact on me was “The Ecstasy of Gold”, which played during The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly when Tuco (Eli Wallach) frantically zipped between the never-ending Sad Hill Cemetery in search for the grave belonging to Arch Stanton, which contains $200,000 worth of gold. That summer, Red Dead: Redemption was released for the Xbox 360, and you better believe that these tracks were played as my character ventured on horseback through the remnants of the old west. The next summer, I screened Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables, which Morricone also scored, and I had even more tracks to add to my playlists.
I took great delight in knowing the Maestro influenced countless other soundtrack artists, and that his tracks were used by Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. When other film-buff friends would proclaim the greatness of John Williams or Hans Zimmer as the greatest living composers, I would follow by sharing that they needed to look up Morricone’s music before they handed out such accolades.
I just received word this morning that the Maestro has died. Perhaps I can use news as an opportunity to share his genius with those who so love music but never had a chance to appreciate him. If anything, it will also open the doors to the movies he scored and they never got a chance to see. His scores covered everything from mainstream pop culture via Quentin Tarantino to the obscure art house films of Pier Paolo Pasolini (he only agreed to do the music for Pasolini’s infamous Salo because of their friendship). There is no other way to describe this news as a sad day for music and movies, even in the trying times of Coronavirus.