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John Williams

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"There’s a very basic human, non-verbal aspect to our need to make music and use it as part of our human expression. It doesn’t have to do with body movements, it doesn't have to do with articulation of a language, but with something spiritual."
—John Williams, quoted from the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial CD liner notes

John Williams is an American composer who composed the soundtracks for the first three Harry Potter films. Well known in the film industry, he has frequently collaborated with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to score such films as Jaws, Superman: The Movie, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T., Hook, Jurassic Park and the Indiana Jones and Star Wars sagas.

Personal life

"So much of what we do is ephemeral and quickly forgotten, even by ourselves, so it's gratifying to have something you have done linger in people's memories."
—John Williams, quoted from the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial CD liner notes

John Williams was born 8 February, 1932, in Long Island, New York, the son of Esther and John Williams, Sr. His father was a jazz drummer who played with the Raymond Scott[2] Quintet, whose music became internationally known through its use in Warner Bros. cartoons.

In 1948, Williams moved to Los Angeles with his family. Williams attended North Hollywood High School and graduated in 1950. He later attended the University of California, Los Angeles and studied privately with composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.[3] In 1952, Williams was drafted into the United States Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for the Air Force Band as part of his duties.

After his service ended in 1955, Williams moved to New York City and entered Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne.[3] During this time he worked as a jazz pianist at New York's many studios and clubs. He also played for composer Henry Mancini: The session musicians were John Williams on piano, Rolly Bundock on bass, Jack Sperling on drums, and Bob Bain on guitar—the same lineup featured on the "Mr. Lucky TV series. Williams recorded with Henry Mancini on the film soundtracks of Peter Gunn (1959), Charade (1963), and Days of Wine and Roses (1962). He was known as "Little Johnny Love" Williams in the early 1950s, and served as arranger and bandleader on a series of popular albums with singer Frankie Laine.

Williams was married to actress Barbara Ruick from 1956 until her death on March 3, 1974. They had three children together: Jennifer (born 1956), Mark (born 1958), and Joseph (born 1960). His youngest son, Joseph Williams, is the former lead singer for the band Toto. His daughter, Jenny Williams, is a singer. He married for a second time on July 21, 1980, to his current wife, Samantha Winslow. Williams is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary fraternity for college band members.

Notable compositions

Film scores

The following list consists of select films for which John Williams wrote the score and/or songs. Those films for which his music won an Oscar are in bold. 109 total.


  • fatty mc fatDaddy-O (1958)


  • Because They're Young (1960)
  • I Passed for White (1960)
  • The Secret Ways (1961)
  • Bachelor Flat (1962)
  • Diamond Head (1963)
  • Gidget Goes to Rome (1963)
  • The Killers (1964)
  • None but the Brave (1965)
  • The Rare Breed (1966)
  • John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965)
  • Valley of the Dolls (1967) Oscar nomination (songs written by André and Dory Previn)
  • A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
  • Fitzwilly (1967)
  • How to Steal a Million (1968)
  • The Reivers(1969) Oscar nomination
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) Oscar nomination


  • Storia di una donna (1970) His only score written for a foreign movie
  • Jane Eyre (1970)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Oscar winner (score adaptation)
  • Images (1972) Oscar nomination
  • The Poseidon Adventure (1972) Oscar nomination
  • The Cowboys (1972)
  • Cinderella Liberty (1973) Oscar nomination
  • The Long Goodbye (1973), also title song.
  • The Paper Chase (1973)
  • Tom Sawyer (1973) Oscar nomination shared with Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman
  • The Towering Inferno (1974) Oscar nomination
  • The Sugarland Express (1974)
  • Jaws (1975) Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar winner
  • The Eiger Sanction (1975)
  • Family Plot (1976)
  • Midway (1976)
  • The Missouri Break (1976)
  • Black Sunday (1977)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA winner
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Oscar nomination
  • Jaws 2 (1978)
  • The Fury (1978)
  • Superman (1978) Oscar nomination and double Grammy nominations
  • 1941 (1979)
  • Dracula (1979)


  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Oscar and double Grammy nominations, BAFTA winner
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Oscar and double Grammy nominations
  • Heartbeeps (1981)
  • Monsignor (1982)
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Golden Globe, Oscar, and BAFTA winner
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) Oscar nomination
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) Oscar nomination
  • The River (1984) Oscar nomination
  • SpaceCamp (1985)
  • Empire of the Sun (1987) Oscar nomination, BAFTA winner
  • The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Oscar nomination
  • The Accidental Tourist (1988) Oscar nomination
  • Born on the Fourth of July (1989) Oscar nomination
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Oscar nomination
  • Always (1989)


  • Stanley and Iris (1990)
  • Presumed Innocent (1990)
  • Home Alone (1990) double Oscar nominations
  • Hook (1991) Grammy and Oscar nominations
  • JFK (1991) Oscar nomination
  • Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
  • Far and Away (1992)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • Schindler's List (1993) Oscar, Grammy and BAFTA winner
  • Nixon (1995) Oscar nomination
  • Sabrina (1995) double Oscar nominations
  • Sleepers (1996) Oscar nomination
  • Rosewood (1997)
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
  • Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
  • Amistad (1997) Grammy and Oscar nominations
  • Stepmom (1998)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) Golden Globe, Grammy, and Oscar nominations
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) Grammy nomination
  • Angela's Ashes (1999) Grammy and Oscar nomination


  • The Patriot (2000) Oscar nomination
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) Grammy and Oscar nominations
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) Oscar nomination and double Grammy nominations
  • Catch Me if You Can (2002) Oscar nomination
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Minority Report (film)|Minority Report (2002)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Grammy nomination
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Grammy and Oscar nominations (soundtrack)
  • The Terminal (2004)
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) double Grammy nominations
  • War of the Worlds (2005) Grammy nomination
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) Golden Globe, BAFTA and Grammy winner, Oscar nomination
  • Munich (2005) Oscar nomination, Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition
  • Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) Grammy award for Best Instrumental Composition and Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack Album


  • The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
  • Interstellar (2011)
  • Lincoln (2011)


"I hadn't heard of either disco or Meco. When I was asked to listen to Meco's now-famous recording, I was a little apprehensive, wondering how a pop record could be made from "The March from Star Wars" and what it would be like. I immediately liked what I heard and sensed that a genuine communication was taking place. Meco took things forward another step by bringing Star Wars to a vast audience who otherwise would not have heard it in its original symphonic setting. I am most grateful to Meco for all of this and I am delighted that 'disco' and 'Meco' are now household words."
—John Williams

John Williams has won a total of five Academy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards. He has been nominated for 21 Golden Globes and 59 Grammys. With 45 Oscar nominations, Williams currently holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for a living person[4][5] being the second most nominated person in the history of the Academy Awards, tied with late fellow film composer Alfred Newman, to Walt Disney's 59. Forty of Williams' Oscar nominations are for Academy Award for Original Music Score and 5 are for Academy Award for Best Original Song. All five winners are in the former category.

Williams has also received two Emmy Awards and four nominations, seven BAFTAs, twenty Grammy Awards, and has been inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. In 2004 he received a Kennedy Center Honour. He also won a Classical Brit award in 2005 for his soundtrack work of the previous year.

Williams' richly thematic and highly popular 1977 score to the first Star Wars film was selected in 2005 by the American Fim Institute (AFI) as the greatest American movie score of all time. His scores for Jaws and E.T. also appeared on the list, at #6 and #14, respectively.[6]

Grammy awards

  • Jaws (1975) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Star Wars (1977) (Best Pop Instrumental Performance)
  • Main Title from Star Wars (1977) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Star Wars (1977) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Main Title Theme from Superman (1979) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Superman (1979) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Flying (Theme from E.T.) (1982) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • E.T. (1982) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Flying (Theme from E.T.) (1982) (Best Arrangement on an Instrumental Recording)
  • Olympic Fanfare and Theme (1984) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Schindler's List (1993) (Instrumental Composition for a Motion Picture or Television)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television)
  • Theme from Angela's Ashes (2000) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Memoirs Of A Geisha (2007) (Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media)
  • "A Prayer For Peace" (Theme from Munich) (2007) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • "The Adventures of Mutt" (from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) (2008) (Best Instrumental Composition)

Golden Globe Awards

  • Jaws (1975) (Best Original Score)
  • Star Wars (1977) (Best Original Score)
  • E.T. (1982) (Best Original Score)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) (Best Original Score)

Emmy Awards

  • Heidi (1968) (Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition)
  • Jane Eyre (1971) (Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition)

Academy Award Nominations (excluding wins)

  • Valley of the Dolls (1967) (Scoring-adaptation or treatment)
  • The Reivers (1969) (Original Score)
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) (Scoring-adaptation of treatment)
  • Images (1972) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • The Poseidon Adventure (1972) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Tom Sawyer (1973) (Original Song Score and Adaptation-or-Scoring: Adaptation)
  • Cinderella Liberty (1973) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Nice to Be Around (from Cinderella Liberty) (1973) (Song)
  • The Towering Inferno (1974) (Original Score)-
  • Star Wars (1977) (Original Score)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (Original Score)
  • Superman (1978) (Original Score)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Original Score)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (Original Score)
  • If We Were in Love (from Yes, Giorgio) (1982) (Song)
  • Return of the Jedi (1983) (Original Score)
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) (Original Score)
  • The River (1984) (Original Score)
  • Empire of the Sun (1987) (Original Score)
  • The Witches of Eastwick (1987) (Original Score)
  • The Accidental Tourist (1988) (Original Score)
  • Born on the Fourth of July (1989) (Original Score)
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) (Original Score)
  • Home Alone (1990) (Original Score)
  • Somewhere in My Memory (from Home Alone) (1990) (Song)
  • JFK (1991) (Original Score)
  • When You're Alone (from Hook) (1991) (Song)
  • Nixon (1995) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Sabrina (1995) (Original Musical or Comedy Score)
  • Moonlight (from Sabrina) (1995) (Song)
  • Sleepers (1996) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Amistad (1997) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Angela's Ashes (1999) (Original Score)
  • The Patriot (2000) (Original Score)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) (Original Score)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) (Original Score)
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) (Original Score)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) (Original Score)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) (Original Score)
  • Munich (2005) (Original Score)

See also

External links

Behind the scenes

  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian Does Hollywood", John Williams is presented as a nominee for Best Musical Score in the fictional Adult Movie Awards. Unlike the other nominees, who are shown wearing headphones and using electronic instruments to record their music, he is shown conducting a 48-piece orchestra.
  • John Williams was seen calling Daniel Negreanu's $100,000 challenge in a promotional video for PokerStars.
  • In the Family Guy sixth season opener "Blue Harvest" (the working title of Return of the Jedi), John Williams is seen conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, performing "The Force Theme" from Star Wars, as well as the theme for The People's Court. Later, "Luke" (played by Chris) finds the charred remains of Williams and the orchestra at his burning homestead and laments that the rest of the show will have to be scored by Danny Elfman, whom he immediately beheads.
  • In the 1995 Simpsons episode "The Springfield Connection", Homer complains about a Springfield Pops performance of music from Star Wars by exclaiming, "They're butchering the classics! John Williams must be rolling around in his grave".
  • In the Roy Zimmerman song "Guns In Space", John Williams is mentioned in the line "or they just do not like a war for which John Williams does the score."

Notes and references

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