John Williams - Biography - IMDb
John Williams Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (41)  | Personal Quotes (4)  | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Flushing, Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameJohn Towner Williams
Nickname Johnny
Height 5' 11½" (1.82 m)

Mini Bio (1)

As one of the best known, awarded, and financially successful composers in US history, John Williams is as easy to recall as John Philip Sousa, Aaron Copland or Leonard Bernstein, illustrating why he is "America's composer" time and again. With a massive list of awards that includes over 52 Oscar nominations (five wins), twenty-odd Gold and Platinum Records, and a slew of Emmy (two wins), Golden Globe (three wins), Grammy (25 wins), National Board of Review (including a Career Achievement Award), Saturn (six wins), American Film Institute (including a Lifetime Achievement Award) and BAFTA (seven wins) citations, along with honorary doctorate degrees numbering in the teens, Williams is undoubtedly one of the most respected composers for Cinema. He's led countless national and international orchestras, most notably as the nineteenth conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980-1993, helming three Pops tours of the US and Japan during his tenure. He currently serves as the Pop's Conductor Laureate. Also to his credit is a parallel career as an author of serious, and some not-so-serious, concert works - performed by the likes of Mstislav Rostropovich, André Previn, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham, Leonard Slatkin, James Ingram, Dale Clevenger, and Joshua Bell. Of particular interests are his Essay for Strings, a jazzy Prelude & Fugue, the multimedia presentation American Journey (aka The Unfinished Journey (1999)), a Sinfonietta for Winds, a song cycle featuring poems by Rita Dove, concerti for flute, violin, clarinet, trumpet, tuba, cello, bassoon and horn, fanfares for the 1984, 1988 and 1996 Summer Olympics, the 2002 Winter Olympics, and a song co-written with Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman for the Special Olympics! But such a list probably warrants a more detailed background...

Born in Flushing, New York on February 8, 1932, John Towner Williams discovered music almost immediately, due in no small measure to being the son of a percussionist for CBS Radio and the Raymond Scott Quintet. After moving to Los Angeles in 1948, the young pianist and leader of his own jazz band started experimenting with arranging tunes; at age 15, he determined he was going to become a concert pianist; at 19, he premiered his first original composition, a piano sonata.

He attended both UCLA and the Los Angeles City College, studying orchestration under MGM musical associate Robert Van Eps and being privately tutored by composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, until conducting for the first time during three years with the U.S. Air Force. His return to the states brought him to Julliard, where renowned piano pedagogue Madame Rosina Lhevinne helped Williams hone his performance skills. He played in jazz clubs to pay his way; still, she encouraged him to focus on composing. So it was back to L.A., with the future maestro ready to break into the Hollywood scene.

Williams found work with the Hollywood studios as a piano player, eventually accompanying such fare such as the TV series Peter Gunn (1958), South Pacific (1958), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), as well as forming a surprising friendship with Bernard Herrmann. At age 24, "Johnny Williams" became a staff arranger at Columbia and then at 20th Century-Fox, orchestrating for Alfred Newman and Lionel Newman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, and other Golden Age notables. In the field of popular music, he performed and arranged for the likes of Vic Damone, Doris Day, and Mahalia Jackson... all while courting actress/singer Barbara Ruick, who became his wife until her death in 1974. John & Barbara had three children; their daughter is now a doctor, and their two sons, Joseph Williams and Mark Towner Williams, are rock musicians.

The orchestrating gigs led to serious composing jobs for television, notably Alcoa Premiere (1961), Checkmate (1960), Gilligan's Island (1964), Lost in Space (1965), Land of the Giants (1968), and his Emmy-winning scores for Heidi (1968) and Jane Eyre (1970). Daddy-O (1958) and Because They're Young (1960) brought his original music to the big theatres, but he was soon typecast doing comedies. His efforts in the genre helped guarantee his work on William Wyler's How to Steal a Million (1966), however, a major picture that immediately led to larger projects. Of course, his arrangements continued to garner attention, and he won his first Oscar for adapting Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

During the '70s, he was King of Disaster Scores with The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974) and The Towering Inferno (1974). His psychological score for Images (1972) remains one of the most innovative works in soundtrack history. But his Americana - particularly The Reivers (1969) - is what caught the ear of director Steven Spielberg, then preparing for his first feature, The Sugarland Express (1974). When Spielberg reunited with Williams on Jaws (1975), they established themselves as a blockbuster team, the composer gained his first Academy Award for Original Score, and Spielberg promptly recommended Williams to a friend, George Lucas. In 1977, John Williams re-popularized the epic cinema sound of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman and other composers from the Hollywood Golden Age: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) became the best selling score-only soundtrack of all time, and spawned countless musical imitators. For the next five years, though the music in Hollywood changed, John Williams wrote big, brassy scores for big, brassy films - The Fury (1978), Superman (1978), 1941 (1979), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ... An experiment during this period, Heartbeeps (1981), flopped. There was a long-term change of pace, nonetheless, as Williams fell in love with an interior designer and married once more.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) brought about his third Oscar, and The River (1984), Empire of the Sun (1987), The Accidental Tourist (1988) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989) added variety to the 1980s, as he returned to television with work on Amazing Stories (1985) and themes for NBC, including NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (1970). The '80s also brought the only exceptions to the composer's collaboration with Steven Spielberg - others scored both Spielberg's segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) and The Color Purple (1985).

Intending to retire, the composer's output became sporadic during the 1990s, particularly after the exciting Jurassic Park (1993) and the masterful, Oscar-winning Schindler's List (1993). This lighter workload, coupled with a number of hilarious references on The Simpsons (1989) actually seemed to renew interest in his music. Two Home Alone films (1990, 1992), JFK (1991), Nixon (1995), Sleepers (1996), Seven Years in Tibet (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Angela's Ashes (1999), and a return to familiar territory with Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) recalled his creative diversity of the '70s.

In this millennium, the artist shows no interest in slowing down. His relationships with Spielberg and Lucas continue in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), the remaining Star Wars prequels (2002, 2005), Minority Report (2002), Catch Me If You Can (2002), and a promised fourth Indiana Jones film. There is a more focused effort on concert works, as well, including a theme for the new Walt Disney Concert Hall and a rumored light opera. But one certain highlight is his musical magic for the world of Harry Potter (2001, 2002, 2004, etc.), which he also arranged into a concert suite geared toward teaching children about the symphony orchestra. His music remains on the whistling lips of people around the globe, in the concert halls, on the promenades, in album collections, sports arenas, and parades, and, this writer hopes, touching some place in ourselves. So keep those ears ready wherever you go, 'cause you will likely hear a bit of John Williams on your way.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jeffrey Wheeler (

Family (4)

Spouse Samantha Winslow (21 July 1980 - present)
Barbara Ruick (15 April 1956 - 3 March 1974)  (her death)  (3 children)
Children Jennifer Williams
Mark Towner Williams
Joseph Williams
Mark T. Williams
Parents Williams Sr, John Francis Towner
Esther Williams
Relatives Joan Williams (sibling)
Jerry Williams (sibling)
Donald Williams (sibling)

Trade Mark (4)

Thundering theme pieces for major science fiction and fantasy films which can be adapted to multiple different musical styles
Extensive use of leitmotifs in scores
Often scores the films of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas
Known as the composer of some of the most recognizable and popular themes in the history of film (Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Superman (1978), Jurassic Park (1993), Harry Potter etc.)

Trivia (41)

Conductor of the Boston Pops for 12 years.
Composed for all but three of Steven Spielberg's feature films.
Composed his first symphony at the urging of fellow film composer Bernard Herrmann.
Performed the famous piano riff on the original recording of Henry Mancini's theme to Peter Gunn (1958).
Father of composer and former TOTO lead singer, Joseph Williams. The two worked together on Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), collaborating on the song performed by the alien band in Jabba's Palace. However, the song was replaced for the Special Edition.
Worked extensively with the London Symphony Orchestra
Son of jazz musician John Williams, (full name: John Francis Towner Williams, Senior), who was best known as the drummer in The Raymond Scott Quintette.
2002 distinguished him as the most Oscar-nominated living individual, with an astounding 41 nominations. In 2003 his total increased to 42, after receiving a nomination for Catch Me If You Can (2002). In 2004, he received his 43rd nomination, for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).
In 2006, he tied Alfred Newman for the most number of Oscar nominations (45) received by a composer-conductor, when he was nominated for "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Munich".
Son-in-law of actors Mel Ruick and Lurene Tuttle
Is a recipient of the prestigious Connor Award given by the Phi Alpha Tau brotherhood of Emerson College located in Boston, Massachusetts.
Composer of the biggest-selling instrumental single of all-time, and the only one to be officially awarded Platinum status - 2 million units by the RIAA, Meco's recording of "Star Wars Theme and Cantina Band". And, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, Meco's "Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk" album also outsold Williams' soundtrack by 300,000 units.
Grand marshal, Tournament of Roses parade [2004]
Recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004, along with Elton John, Joan Sutherland, Warren Beatty, and Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.
Attended UCLA, Los Angeles City College & Juilliard
Composed the score to Alfred Hitchcock's final film.
Honorary Member of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honrary Band Fraternity. Member of Boston University Chapter Theta Beta, Brother # 93, Nickname: "Pops"
Passed on scoring Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), in favor of Memoirs of a Geisha (2005).
Frequently works with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Chris Columbus.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998.
During a live orchestral concert of film music in late 2004, Williams presented a tribute to the late Jerry Goldsmith, David Raksin, and Elmer Bernstein, explaining how he played piano on some of their scores at the beginning of his career. He joked "They were my former employers - I must have been something like 12 when I played for them.".
In 2005, his scores for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Jaws (1975), and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) were respectively ranked #1, #6, and #14 on the AFI's list of the Top 25 Film Scores in the past 100 years.
Composed the "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" for the 1984 Olympic Games, which were held in Los Angeles and was awarded a Grammy in 1985.
He was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts on February 25, 2010 at the White House in Washington D.C. for his services and contributions to music.
He's an admirer of Japanese animation composer Yôko Kanno.
Was nominated for Film Composer of the Year in 2004 and 2011 by the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA). He won in 2011.
In 2012, he surpassed Alfred Newman as the most nominated composer in Oscar history with 42 nominations for Best Original Score when his scores for The Adventures of Tintin (2011) and War Horse (2011) were nominated for the award.
As of 2014, he holds the record with the most number of Oscar nominations in the Best Musical Score with 43 nominations.
Great uncle of actors Christian Curwood and Rebekah Curwood.
The music score for Jaws (1975) is one of the most recognizable, iconic, and suspenseful movie scores of all time. When Williams played it for Steven Spielberg for the first time, Spielberg couldn't help but laugh, feeling that it was so simple it could never work. The final version after all uses just two music notes: E and F. But Williams persuaded Spielberg to use it, and after a few tweaks, one of the most famous film scores of all time was born. This was the second film on which Williams and Spielberg collaborated (after The Sugarland Express (1974)), and the two have worked together on almost every film Spielberg has done since.
Brother of studio percussionist Donald Williams and Jerry Williams.
As of 2017, he has contributed with the musical score of 15 films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Fiddler on the Roof (1971), The Towering Inferno (1974), Jaws (1975), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), The Big Chill (1983), The Accidental Tourist (1988), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), JFK (1991), Schindler's List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Munich (2005), War Horse (2011), Lincoln (2012) and The Post (2017). Of those, Schindler's List (1993) is a winner in the category.
He was originally attached to score The Sentinel (1977) but pulled out to work on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
He was originally attached to score Heaven's Gate (1980), but left the project when the film was half a year behind schedule and he had to start composing the music for both Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) immediately after that.
He was originally suggested to compose the score for Psycho II (1983).
Graduated from North Hollywood High School.
He was originally going to score The Shining (1980), until Stanley Kubrick decided to go with a selection of music from different composers.
His grandmother Ada Towner was Irish-French Canadian.
Father John was a professional drummer & percussionist for the Kate Smith Radio Show.
Has an older sister Joan and a younger brother Gerard.
Lived at 143-40 Poplar Avenue in Flushing, New York until his family moved to Los Angeles.

Personal Quotes (4)

[about his friend, Jerry Goldsmith] His chameleon adaptability was a prerequisite to longevity and success in Hollywood. We used to call him Gorgeous. He was the golden boy, a beautiful presence. His music had a freshness, and he had a freshness.
I work very much in what some would consider old school, in front of the keyboard with pencil and paper. The piano is my favorite tool. Over the decades there has been so much amazing technological change in the music business, but I've been so busy I've never retooled.
[on the musical scoring of films] In the future, I think serious composers will become ever more interested. Changes in technology Eli change aesthetic approaches. More connections between the audio and visual world would also open possibilities that young composers find increasingly intriguing.
The idea of becoming a professional film composer, never mind writing nine Stars Wars' scores over forty years, was not a consciously sought-after goal. It simply happened. All of this has been the result of a beneficent randomness, which often produces the best things in life.

Salary (1)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) $100,000

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