John Williams Biography

John Williams is regarded as one of the most successful film composers of all time. Explore this biography for his profile, childhood, life and timeline.

John Williams

Quick Facts

Gender: Male
Birthday: 08 February 1932
Nationality: American
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Spouse/Ex-: Barbara Ruick
Children: Joseph Williams
Education: Juilliard School, University of California, Los Angeles
Awards: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, National Medal of Arts, Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition, Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score, Academy Award for Best Original Score, Academy Award for Best Original Score, Academy Award for Best Original Score, Kennedy Center Honors, AFI Life Achievement Award, Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, Ordre des arts et des lettres, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Award, Saturn Award, British Academy of Film and Television Arts

American composer and conductor, John Williams has scored more than 75 films in his long career including Jaws, the Star Wars trilogy , Memoirs of A Geisha, Munich, Schindler’s List and the first three Harry Potter films. Before he started out as a film composer, he was a jazz pianist and composed for soap operas on television. Apart from compositions for films, he has also written many concert works. He has long been associated with the award-winning director, Steven Spielberg, composing the background scores for most of his films. Apart from his music for films, he has also composed the theme music for four Olympic games, the NBC Nightly News and NBC Sunday Night Football. He is the recipient of five prestigious Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards and twenty one Grammy Awards. Currently, he is the Boston Pops Orchestra’s conductor laureate and continues to make annual appearances for the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Philiharmonic orchestra. Aside his career, he was married to actress, Barbara Ruick and then, Samantha Winslow. He is currently an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi and is also inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. He is believed to be a humble and pragmatic personality with an attractive charisma, who never forgot his roots despite his immense and glorious successes in his career. From Tintin to the sonata pieces in Beyonce’s hit single, ‘Crazy in Love’, Williams has contributed to small and large undertakings in a world where cinema and music converge. Scroll further for more.

Childhood & Early Life

John Williams was born on February 8, 1932, in Floral Park, Long Island, New York. In 1948, he moved with his family to Los Angeles, California and later attended a college near his home, where he studied composition.
After he graduated from the University of California, he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force.
After his service in the army ended, he attended Julliard School of Music in New York City, where he studied piano and worked as jazz pianist part time, in clubs.
He completed his education at the institute and moved to Los Angeles, where he began working as a film studio orchestrator.


John Williams began working with Universal Studios, where he shared music credit on a number of films, the most notable being ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ in 1954.
In 1956, he was hired by Twentieth Century Fox as a pianist in their studio orchestra and he soon began writing the music for TV shows such as ‘Gilligan’s Island’, ‘Wagon Train’ and ‘Land of Giants’.
His claim to fame was with his first major film composition for a B-grade film, ‘Daddy-O’ in 1958.
In 1967, he made it to the list of A-level music composers, when he wrote the Oscar-nominated score for the movie, ‘The Valley of the Dolls’. He continued to write Oscar-worthy scores for films like ‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ and ‘Towering Inferno’.
In 1974, the composer was approached by Steven Spielberg to compose the music for his feature directorial debut, ‘The Sugarland Express’. Spielberg was convinced that the composer was capable of producing musical scores for all types of films.
He composed the original score for ‘Superman’ (1978), directed by Richard Donner, which was also used for the later installments of Superman.
From 1980-1993, he was the principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. During this time, he wrote a number of Concerti’s and symphonies.
He composed the scores for films such as ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, the Indiana Jones series, ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ and the 1993 sci-fi thriller, Jurassic Park.
Williams also composed somber tragedies for movies like ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993), ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998), ‘Munich’ (2005) and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ (2005).
In the new millennium, Williams was asked to score for film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s best-sellers, the Harry Potter series. Potter-heads now identify the famous composer with ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ and the main background score that has enthralled many.
In 2011, his most recent film scores were for the films, ‘War Horse’ and ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, which won him numerous awards and accolades.
2012 brought it with William’s most recent venture with Spielberg for the movie, ‘Lincoln’. The background score subsequently earned him his 48th Academy Award nomination.
In February 2013, he conducted the Young Musician’s Foundation Debut Orchestra and also expressed his interest in working for the Star Wars sequel trilogy with director, George Lucas.

Major Works

The heroic fanfare for the movie ‘Superman’ became one of John William’s biggest works in Hollywood, so much so, that the theme was used for the subsequent sequels by different directors.
The Oscar-nominated ‘Indiana Jones’ came as a huge breakthrough in the career for Williams as he composed separate themes to accompany the protagonist’s persona in the films. Additional themes were added to the ensuing sequels, which are fondly remembered by fans as ‘exceptionally brilliant’.
Williams was asked to score the Star-Wars trilogy, out of which, the most notable themes were ‘Duel of the Fates’, ‘Across the Stars’, ‘A Hero Falls’, ‘The Force Themes’ and ‘Rebel Fanfare’. Few composers have scored an entire series of this magnitude, when combined, can take a total of 14 hours to perform by an orchestra.
The ‘T-Rex Theme’ for Jurassic Park along with the ‘Opening Theme’ of the movie is some of his best-remembered compositions in the sci-fi thriller category.
He is particularly known for his contributions to the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, where the scores for the film adaptations of the books, dubbed as ‘Hedwig’s Theme’, were used in the 4th, 5th, 6th movies in the series of Harry Potter. He also composed the ‘Original Background Score’ for Harry Potter for the first three films, which won him numerous awards.
His theme for the movie ‘Jaws’ became a Charting Hit on the U.S. Billboard countdown.
Apart from his film contributions, he has also been the conductor of the New York Philiharmonic Orchestra where he performs his Oscar-winning works on a yearly basis. All of his concerts are sold out every single year, explaining the magnitude of his success.

Awards & Achievements

21 Grammy Awards for Composition, Themes and Best Original Scores
BMI Film Awards, 1999
4 Golden Globe Awards, 1975, 1977, 1982 and 2005
Highest Individual Honor of the Olympic Honor, 2003
3 Emmy Awards, 1968, 1971, 2009
5 Academy Awards
7 BAFTA Awards
Classical Brit Award, 2005
He is inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame
He is inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame
He has also received a Kennedy Center Honor.
He has the second highest number of Academy Award Nominations after film composer, Alfred Newman.

Personal Life & Legacy

He was married to Barbara Ruick from 1956 till her death on March 1, 1974. The couple had three children.
He married Samantha Winslow on July 21, 1980, whom he currently lives with.

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John Williams Biography

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Last Updated

June 07, 2019

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