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Leslie Bricusse, songwriter behind Goldfinger and Willy Wonka, dies at 90

The Oscar and Grammy-winning songwriter Leslie Bricusse has died at the age of 90.

London-born Bricusse was known for writing the lyrics for the theme to James Bond adventure Goldfinger as well as songs for films including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Doctor Dolittle.

His son Adam Bricusse announced news of his death on social media, saying he “passed away peacefully”. His close friend Joan Collins also posted on Instagram, paying tribute to “one of the giant songwriters of our time”.

Bricusse won a best song Oscar for writing Talk to the Animals from 1967’s Doctor Dolittle as well as one for best adaptation and original song score (later retitled best original score) for 1982’s Victor/Victoria.

Some of his best-known work comes from 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Bricusse writing both Candy Man and Pure Imagination alongside Anthony Newley.

“On the next soundstage, they were shooting Cabaret,” Bricusse said of the production in an interview from June this year. “And I thought how wonderful it was. And I was a bit nervous about the amateur style of our show compared with the professionalism of Bob Fosse.”

Bricusse also collaborated with John Barry for the themes to Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. His stage work included 1989’s Sherlock Holmes: The Musical, 2009’s Cyrano and 1961’s Stop the World – I Want to Get Off, all with Newley. Their song What Kind of Fool Am I?, from the latter musical, made them the first Brits to ever win the song of the year Grammy in 1963.

The pair also wrote the song Feeling Good for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd, which was later made famous by Nina Simone. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1989.

Tributes have also been paid by stars including Elaine Paige on Twitter. “Shocked & saddened by the news that the brilliant & wonderful Leslie Bricusse has died,” she wrote. “One of our great songwriters. My first ever professional role was in Roar of the Greasepaint musical. We’ve been friends for many years.”

When talking of Pure Imagination earlier this year, Bricusse said: “It’s a good thought for people, especially young people, to carry with them through life. You’ll be free if you truly wish to be at the end is, to me, the most important line in the film. It’s a reflective thought on how to make a life work.”

He is survived by his son Adam and wife, the actor Yvonne Romain.