Born: John Towner Williams on Feb 8, 1932 in Flushing, NY
Genre: Stage & Screen
Styles: Soundtracks, Original Score, Classical Crossover, Movie Themes, TV Soundtracks, Film Music, Classical, Orchestral Pop, Easy Listening
Instruments: Piano, Composer, Bass, Arranger, Conductor
The most popular film composer of the modern era, John Williams created music for some of the most successful motion pictures in Hollywood history - Star Wars, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park are just three of the credits in his extensive oeuvre. Born February 8, 1932, in Long Island, NY, he was himself the son of a movie studio musician, and he followed in his father's footsteps by studying music at UCLA and Juilliard; initially, he pursued a career as a jazz pianist, later working with Henry Mancini to compose the score for the hit television series Peter Gunn. Williams then went solo to pen a number of TV soundtracks for series including Playhouse 90, Wagon Train, and Bachelor Father; in 1959 he ventured into film with Daddy-O, and spent the majority of the 1960s alternating between the silver screen (The Killers, The Plainsman) and its smaller counterpart (Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space).
In 1968 Williams earned his first Academy Award nomination for his work in Valley of the Dolls; in 1970, he garnered nods for both The Reivers and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and two years later finally won for Fiddler on the Roof. A slew of Oscar nominations followed, for features including The Poseidon Adventure, Images, Tom Sawyer, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974 he first teamed with a young filmmaker named Steven Spielberg on a movie titled The Sugarland Express; the two frequently reteamed over the years to come, with often stunning results - Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Jurassic Park, and Schindler's List were just a few of the Spielberg/Williams pairings, with Jaws, E.T., and Schindler's List all winning the composer Academy Awards.
Williams' other most frequent collaborator was George Lucas; beginning with 1977's Star Wars - yet another Williams Oscar winner - they later teamed for 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi, with the composer agreeing to score Lucas' subsequent Star Wars films as they went into production in 1997. He even celebrated his 30th anniversary of working with Steven Spielberg with 2002's Minority Report soundtrack. Other scores of note included 1979's Superman, 1987's The Witches of Eastwick, 1988's The Accidental Tourist, 1991's JFK, and 1995's Nixon. In 1980, Williams also took over for the late Arthur Fiedler as the conductor of the Boston Pops.
- Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide)