Oscar- and Grammy-winning film composer Ennio Morricone has died at age 91, after suffering complications from a fall last week in his hometown of Rome. His broadly influential work impacted a number of rockers, perhaps most notably Metallica.
The band has played “The Ecstasy of Gold,” part of Morricone’s score for the 1966 Sergio Leone-directed movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, before its concerts for decades. Metallica then recorded a cover of the song for a 2007 all-star tribute album titled We All Love Ennio Morricone.
Clint Eastwood‘s “Man With No Name” character in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly became “one of the early mentors onscreen that I kind of wanted to emulate,” James Hetfield said at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 2014. But there were larger themes at play: “I actually identified with each person in the movie — the ugly one, the good and the bad. Without getting too deep, metaphorically, we all have that in us, we all have the potential to be each one of those.”
The Ramones also used “The Ecstasy of Gold” to close out concerts, as heard on several of the band’s live recordings. Bruce Springsteen‘s update of “Once Upon a Time in the West,” also recorded for We All Love Ennio Morricone, won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental performance. Roger Waters co-wrote “Lost Boys Calling” with Morricone for 1998’s The Legend of 1900.
Radiohead‘s breakthrough on OK Computer followed a period of intense listening to Morricone, producer Nigel Godrich once told Mojo. Mark Knopfler claimed the composer as an influence as well. Danger Mouse, who has produced U2, the Black Keys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, told New York Magazine that he specifically referenced the composer’s approach when creating the instrumentation for Gnarls Barkley’s No. 2 Billboard smash “Crazy.”
Morricone remained humbled by the tributes. “It helps me realize that I am considered as a sort of spokesperson of my epoch,” he said in Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words, “and it means at the same time that some of my works have entered popular culture, even if indirectly.”
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was the third and final installment in Leone’s spacious, often dialogue-free Dollars Trilogy, along with A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. Leone and Morricone met in elementary school, becoming life-long friends, and eventually worked together on seven of Morricone’s more than 500 movie projects. Morricone was so prolific that he boasted 22 different composing credits in 1969 alone.
Listen to Metallica Perform ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’
Morricone later claimed an Oscar for Quentin Tarantino‘s 2015 film The Hateful Eight, after being nominated for Roland Joffe’s The Mission and Brian De Palma‘s The Untouchables, among others. Eastwood presented Morricone with an honorary Academy Award for contributions to the art of film music in 2007.
Other key works include Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Frantic (1988), Bugsy (1991), Once Upon a Time in America (1984) and Cinema Paradiso (1988), the latter of which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Morricone earned Grammys for Once Upon a Time in the West and The Untouchables, before The Good, the Bad and the Ugly entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.
Ironically, an early mentor had to convince Metallica to use Morricone’s music. They initially played “this really terrible intro tape that was just this heart beating and it got faster and faster and faster,” Hetfield noted with a laugh. “That was one of the coolest things that our first manager ever did. That was pretty much the only thing that we kept from him, advice-wise.”