John Williams. You probably know him best as the composer of some of the most famous film scores including Superman, the Star Wars Trilogy, ET, Jurassic Park, and the Indiana Jones Trilogy. However, his movie music work also includes the mysterious tunes of the Harry Potter movies, the stirring melodies of Schindler’s List, the haunting themes from Jaws, the expressive scores of Saving Private Ryan and Amistad, and the choral harmonies in Home Alone and Empire of the Sun. In fact, he has worked on more films and won more awards than we can name here.
While you may know all of this, there are probably some things about him and his work that will surprise you. For example, did you know that he wrote the music for the pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island? Even though the episode didn’t air, you can hear the theme on YouTube.
Here are 10 more things you probably don’t know about John Williams:
- He was drafted in 1952 and arranged, played, and conducted music for military bands including the U.S. Air Force Band. After his time in the service, he moved to New York and studied at Julliard.
- After Julliard, he worked as jazz pianist, playing in nightclubs. He was known as “Little Johnny Love” Williams when he was a bandleader for singer Frankie Laine.
- He moved back to Los Angeles from New York and became a studio pianist on film scores. He can be heard playing the famous opening riff on Henry Mancini’s Peter Gun theme.
- He composed music for various TV programs in the 1960’s where he was sometimes credited as “Johnny Williams” – a name he shares with his jazz percussionist father. In addition to Gilligan’s Island mentioned above, he also wrote for Lost In Space, Land of the Giants, and The Time Tunnel.
- He met Spielberg on a blind lunch date in 1972 and, since then, has collaborated on all but one of his films. The Colour Purple was scored by Quincy Jones.
- He holds the Academy Award record for the most nominations for a living person (52 nominations as of January 2020).
- His first Academy Award nomination came many years before he started collaborating with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. It was for Valley of the Dolls (1967), though he didn’t win. He was nominated after that for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. His first actual Oscar win was for musical direction for Fiddler on the Roof.
- He has composed numerous pieces for concert hall performance including a symphony and various concertos for horn, cello, clarinet, flute, violin, and bassoon.
- He composes using a pencil and paper on a small writing desk next to his Steinway piano. He has never had time to learn to write music using a computer.
- He was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Obama for his achievements “as a pre-eminent composer and conductor [whose] scores have defined and inspired modern movie-going for decades.”
The Parker Symphony Orchestra is excited to be playing the music of John Williams on May 6 at 7:30 PM at the PACE Center.