22 Things You Need To Know About John Williams

John Williams performing at The Royal Albert Hall marks 22 years since his last performance in the UK.

The Daily Jaws will be there, but if you aren’t lucky enough to get seats then you can still join in by listening live to Classic FM who are broadcasting the entire event. And boy, what an event it will be.

To celebrate that return, here are 22 John Williams facts.

1. John Williams was born on February 8, 1932.

2. His middle name is Towner.

Who knew this infant would help change the course of popular culture.

Who knew this infant would help change the course of popular culture.

3. Williams first studied piano at the age of six. By the time he was in grade school, this son of a CBS radio orchestra percussionist had learned to play bassoon, cello, clarinet, trombone, and trumpet.

4. After three years military service Williams became a movie studio musician and can be heard as a pianist on Some Like It Hot (1959) and To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).


5. In the 1960s John Williams, often credited as Johnny Williams, created music for such TV shows as Gilligan’s Island, Wagon Train and Irwin Allen’s Lost In Space, Land of the Giants and The Time Tunnel.

6. Williams would continue scoring the work of Allen on the big screen accompanying ‘the master of disaster’ projects The Poseidon Adventure (1972) , Earthquake (1974)  and The Towering Inferno (1974), all leading perfectly to Jaws.

7. When Williams first played Steven Spielberg the simple E-F-E-F Jaws motif on the piano, Spielberg thought that he was kidding him. He wasn’t. It continues to be famous in swimming pools worldwide.

8. The Jaws score was recorded in March 1975 with a 73 piece orchestra.

9. Steven Spielberg played clarinet in high school and also got to play it on Jaws, for the ‘off key’ music used in the band in the street scene. Williams said Spielberg “added the right amateur quality to the piece.”

10. Jaws saw Williams take home his second Oscar, he’d won the year before for best adapted score for Fiddler on the Roof (1971) but this would be his first for original score. Williams (so far) has gone onto win three further Oscars, giving a total of five. The other films are Star Wars (1977) , E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and Schindler’s List (1993). He’s surely due another win after 25 years.

11. Williams had reportedly said to Spielberg that - for such an important film as Schindler’s List - he should find “a better composer than I”. A knowing Spielberg retorted “I know, but they’re all dead.”

12. Williams composed the score for Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot (1976).

13. John William’s son, Joseph, is the lead singer of Toto, who had a hit with Africa in 1982.

14. At the time of writing Williams has been nominated for a staggering 51 Oscars, making him the most prolific living Oscar nominee and he is only second in Oscar history to Walt Disney himself, with 59. Not a bad record for this vicinity.

15. From 1980 to 1993 he served as the Boston Pops's principal conductor, and is currently the orchestra's laureate conductor.

16. John Williams has scored every Steven Spielberg film since 1974’s Sugarland Express apart from The Color Purple (Quincy Jones), Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman) and Ready Player One (Alan Silvestri).

Perfect partnership. Enduring friendship.

Perfect partnership. Enduring friendship.

17. Unsurprisingly then that Spielberg has said "I have to say, without question, John Williams has been the single most significant contributor to my success as a filmmaker."

18. Outside of his work for Spielberg other highlights include Star Wars, Superman: The Movie, Dracula (1979), The Witches of Eastwick, Home Alone, JFK and the first three Harry Potter films.

19. When Williams won his Oscar for Jaws at the 1976 Academy Awards he didn’t have far to walk to collect his award as he was conducting the show from the orchestra pit.

20. He’d get used to taking to the stage for Jaws as he’d also take home gongs from the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Grammys.


21. Although Spielberg would not return to Amity Island an essential component to the success of Jaws was its score and Williams returned as the ‘voice’ of the shark in 1978’s Jaws 2 with a richer, deeper layered score that is just as epic as the original. If you haven’t heard it on its own, you don’t know what you are missing.

22. His next two scores are reported to be Star Wars: Episode IX and the as yet untitled fifth Indiana Jones Film, the latter yet again directed by Steven Spielberg.

Did we miss any essential John Williams facts? Tell us in the comments!

By Dean Newman 

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