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Happy Birthday John Williams!

Happy Birthday to John Williams

Happy Birthday Williams!

One of the greatest composers of the 20th (and 21st!) century was born today. He has written some of the most recognisable and memorable film scores in cinematic history. He is considered one of the most influential film composers of all time. His work has influenced many other film composers, as well as contemporary classical and popular music.

Williams was born in 1932 in New York. His father was a jazz drummer and percussionist. In 1948 the family moved to Los Angeles where John attended school. A few years later, in 1951, he was drafted into the US Air Force. Here, he played piano, brass and conducted for the the US Air Force Band. He also attended music courses at the University of Arizona as part of his service.

After his Air Force service, he moved to New York and entered the famous Julliard School where he studied piano. He originally intended on becoming a concert pianist, but after hearing some contemporary pianists perform he switched his focus to composition.

After Julliard, Williams returned to LA where he began working as a session musician. He performed on scores by the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Henry Mancini. , During this period in his life, he was known as Johnny Williams, and released several jazz albums.

Williams’ first film composition was for a film called “You Are Welcome” in 1954. This was a promotional film for the tourist information office of Newfoundland. During the 1950s Williams composed music for various television programmes. He soon gained the attention of Hollywood, and received his first Academy Award nomination in 1967 for his score for “Valley of the Dolls”.

In 1974 Williams met with Steven Spielberg – a meeting which would have a massive impact on both men’s futures. Spielberg approached Williams to compose the sountrack for his directorial debut “The Sugarland Express”. When they teamed up again a year later for Spielberg’s second film “Jaws”, a great collaborative team was born.

Shortly afterwards, Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow director George Lucas. Lucas was looking for a composer for his ambitious 1977 film “Star Wars”. Years later, the Star Wars theme is now among the most widely-recognisable pieces in film history.

Since then, Williams has been massively prolific in his film score compositions. Other major hits include “Jurassic Park”, “Schindler’s List”, “Indiana Jones”, “Harry Potter”, “ET” and “Home Alone”. To date, he has won 25 Grammy Awards, 7 British Academy Film Awards, 5 Academy Awards and 4 Golden Globe Awards. Williams has received a massive 53 Oscar nominations, making him the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. He is the only person to be nominated for an Academy Award in seven different decades (1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s). He is also the oldest person – at 90 years old (2023) – to have been nominated.

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