Years Active: 1957-Present
Honours: (Strap Yourselves In, There’s A LOT!)
Academy Awards: 5 wins (Best Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score for Fiddler on the Roof, Best Original Score for Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Schindler’s List), 52 nominations. Holds the record for most nominations for a living person. Second-most nominated overall (behind Walt Disney).
BAFTA Awards: 7 wins (Anthony Asquith Award for Original Film Music for Jaws and The Towering Inferno, Star Wars & Memoirs of a Geisha, Best Original Film Music for The Empire Strikes Back, Best Score For a Film for E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, and Schindler’s List), 16 nominations
Grammy Awards: 25 wins (Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media for: Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Best Instrumental Composition for: Star Wars– ‘Main Title’, ‘Theme From Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘Superman Main Title Theme’, ‘Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)’, ‘Adventure on Earth’, ‘Olympic Fanfare & Theme’, ‘Theme from Angela’s Ashes’, ‘A Prayer For Peace’, ‘The Adventures of Mutt’, ‘The Book Thief’, and ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite’, Best Pop Instrumental Performance for: Star Wars, Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella for: ‘Flying’ theme from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and ‘Escapades for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra from Catch Me If You Can’), 72 nominations
Golden Globe Awards: 4 wins (Best Original Score – Motion Picture for: Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Memoirs of a Geisha), 25 nominations
Emmy Awards: 3 wins (Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition for Heidi, Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition – For a Special Program for Jane Eyre, and Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music for Great Performances), 6 nominations
Recipient of the National Medal of Arts (2009)
Inductee into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame (2004)
Recipient of the Kennedy Center Honours (2004)
Recipient of the Olympic Order (2003)
Culturally Significant Productions:
Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977-2019), Superman (1978), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993) and Schindler’s List (1993). Among many others.
Blimey, that’s a lot of awards. If most people have an awards shelf or room, John Williams must have an awards house where all his various statuettes live. The above list isn’t even an extensive one, there are various other honours that have been bestowed upon ‘the Maestro’ charting his incredible seven-plus decade career, and each one just as deserved.
If you can think of a famous piece of music from a film, chances are good that Williams is responsible for it. Do you hum ‘The Imperial March’ whenever your boss/mother-in-law/wife/roommate (delete where appropriate) walks into the room? Then you can thank John Williams. Can you not look at a rendering of a dinosaur without thinking of the Jurassic Park theme? Because that’s his too.
Perhaps the most fruitful partnership of Williams’ career has come with renowned director Steven Spielberg. A collaboration that stretches back to Spielberg’s 1974 debut feature The Sugarland Express and is still going strong to this day, with Williams handling the music for almost all of Spielberg’s films.
Another well known name associated with Williams is Star Wars. His scores for the epic space operas have been one of their most redeeming features since the very beginning – literally, given how iconic the opening theme of A New Hope has become. He continued to compose for the franchise until 2019’s Rise of Skywalker, when he declared he was retiring from the galaxy far, far away. His near forty-five-year spell in the franchise has gifted us with such gems as ‘The Imperial March’, ‘Cantina Band’, ‘Force Theme’, and even managed to liven up The Phantom Menace with ‘The Duel of the Fates’. I’m willing to bet that at least one of these tunes is now stuck in your head.
Now approaching ninety, Williams nonetheless continues to work in Hollywood. His last Star Wars score for Rise of Skywalker netted him his Oscar fifty-ninth nomination, leaving him behind only Walt Disney on the Academy Award table. He’s also attached to write the score for the as-yet-untitled fifth Indiana Jones film, another franchise he has left his mark on, and his abilities have shown no signs of dulling with age. I for one hope we can continue to hum Williams’ compositions for years to come.