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Feature
80 Reasons Why John Williams Is The Man
We mark the movie maestro's 80th birthday with a celebration of his classic pieces

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Hedwig's Theme
First heard in: Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (2001)

The greatest piece of music ever written to describe a postal delivery service, Hedwig the Owl's theme was composed before the body of the score, Williams writing it for the trailer and then premiering it in a concert at Tanglewood. "I remember first hearing Hedwig's theme," recalled Potter producer David Heyman. "It was so clear that this was it — majestic and magical." As much as it refers to Harry's feathered friend, the use of the theme, especially in its gossamer light celesta arrangements, suggests a broader motif for the creative and capricious nature of magic in the series — it also serves as a kind of unofficial theme for the entire franchise. Williams composed the first three Potter pics but the original remains the best, a memorable mix of whimsy, mischief, adventure and menace topped with a touch of pomp and circumstance that is one of the composer's best from the noughties.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Shark Cage Fugue
First heard in: Jaws (1975)

It's a classic movie moment. Three men work together to build something to kill a beast. In this case, Quint (Robert Shaw), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Brody (Roy Scheider) construct the anti-shark cage (or "Ant-eye shark cage" as Robert Shaw pronounces it) for Hooper to descend into the depths of the ocean. It's a dramatic scene and Williams reprises a secondary theme he has been using throughout the strive aquatic but in its most rigorous dramatic statement yet, layering instruments over a building violin structure that culminates in a shattering climax. Unlike Hooper, Williams' tune has got lots of spit.

Listen to an excerpt:


Yoda's Theme
First heard in: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Full of delicate orchestration and sensitive playing, Yoda's theme represents one of the few optimistic passages in a mostly downbeat sequel score, particularly in its playful pizzicato rendition as the Jedi master puts Luke through his paces. The theme gets a whimsical reprise in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial when the alien passes a kid in Yoda fancy dress at Halloween — when Spielberg showed the film to George Lucas, he didn't pre-warn him about the homage and elicited a delighted reaction from the Star Wars creator.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Dance Of The Witches
First heard in: The Witches Of Eastwick (1987)

Williams' music for George Miller's devilish comedy contains one of his most insidious ear worms. To represent the machinations of the three housewives (Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Cher) who conjure up the Devil himself (Jack) the composer creates a whirling dervish of tune, a wicked waltz utilising violins, woodwinds and harpsichord. It works in a light-hearted spritely iteration but can also be amped up for flash and thunder dramatics when needs be. Like much of Williams work, you can listen to it just once and it stays in your head for days.

Listen to an excerpt:


Slave Children's Crusade
First heard in: Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)

It is the musical highlight of the Temple Of Doom score. A brutal relentless march symbolizing Indy's rescue of the slave children that starts on a military snare drum augmented with metallic chain percussion and takes off into something victorious. It holds a melodramatic version as Short Round becomes a slave and carries an Eastern arrangement that hints at the film's locale but at it's most rousing, it is the musical embodiment of fortune and glory.

Listen to an excerpt:

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Have Your Say
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Your Comments

1
freaking Lapti Nek is here but no Battle of the Heroes? Can we please stop pretending that the Prequel soundtrack is no good just because RLM doesn't like the films? More

Posted by NeoBrowser on Saturday May 4, 2013, 10:57

2 RE: RE:
Thank you sir. Your kind words will keep me sane when I get locked up for libel! More

Posted by Rob on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 11:22

3 RE: RE:
L: Rob Or more likely Darth Tax-eVader * .gif]ee what I did there?! *for humorous purposes only and in no way shape or form was it meant as a slander on his character. Just mediocre wordplay is all.ote]   py07.gif]py07.gif]   ert of Mirth, I salute you More

Posted by JIm R on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 11:10

4 RE: RE:
Or more likely Darth Tax-eVader * .gif]ee what I did there?! *for humorous purposes only and in no way shape or form was it meant as a slander on his character. Just mediocre wordplay is all. More

Posted by Rob on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 10:51

5 RE:
L: howie71taylor A master composer and what a back catalogue. Did you know Tottenham Hotspur FC walk out to "Duel Of The Fates" for every home game? sp; rry dress up as Darth Maul ? More

Posted by JIm R on Tuesday February 14, 2012, 09:41

6 A true genius
Just about every film he's been involved in has been improved greatly by the soundtrack, sometimes subtle but always worthwhile. A great old fashioned genius, long may he reign as King of the soundtracks. Excellent article :) More

Posted by jamiecfc on Monday February 13, 2012, 15:13

7 Indy's Very First Adventure - The Last Crusade
Cracking cue ploughs along with the train chasing Indy all the way! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 11:10

8 Departure of Boba Fett
Fantastic cue ending in four huge blasts from the whole orchestra - gob-smacking! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 10:59

9 Short Round...
There's a moment in Temple of Doom's end credit music that literally has the Raiders March & Short Round's theme playing AT THE SAME TIME and perfectly complementing each other - how ingenious is that?! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 10:46

10 Gasps of astonishment...
I once played Temple of Doom's Mine Car Chase to a friend of mine - a grade six flautist - she ran out of the room gasping!! More

Posted by wayne302919 on Monday February 13, 2012, 10:39

11 RE: We're gonna need a bigger list...
With any subjective list, the temptation is to point out anything that's missing, as opposed to what's there. So, let's get mine out of the way now: - Throne Room / Medal Ceremony from A New Hope? Lapti Nek from ROTJ is there but not this glorious piece of pomp and circumstance?! However, this article is one of the best that Empire has ever produced. Very deep research and clear evidence of passion and understanding of Williams' entire career. The temptation would be to go for the obvious, and I reckon I could come up with 80 highlights from Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones alone. Full credit for going beyond the obvious though, and here's another one - the original Lost In Space TV show had a theme tune from John Williams, although then he was still Johnny! My version of the ET soundtrack has Escape / Chase / Saying Goodbye in a beautiful 15min single track that I happened to be listening to when I started reading the Empire homepage today. I'd recommend that everyonMore

Posted by BelfastBoy on Sunday February 12, 2012, 11:19

12 We're gonna need a bigger list...
...but this is a magisterial survey. Superb work by Ian Freer and (presumably) team. I've been here hours, reliving old favourites and making a few rewarding new discoveries too. Thank you to John Williams for so many of the great tunes of my lifetime - and crucially, many happy returns! More

Posted by Dextraneous on Sunday February 12, 2012, 01:01

13 Thank You Empire
What an amazing feature, fitting tribute to someone as massively talented as John Williams More

Posted by james dean on Sunday February 12, 2012, 00:54

14 Wow
the man is amazing.....I will be testing my friends More

Posted by Paddy Kieran on Saturday February 11, 2012, 21:41

15 Thank you so much
Delighted to see The Towering Inferno titles and the Empire asteroid chase on here. Brilliant, thanks. More

Posted by Schnorbitz on Saturday February 11, 2012, 20:10

16 Amazing Feature for an Amazing Man
Ian Freer hats off to you, this is the best feature Empire's ever done, online or off, and I salute your encyclopaedic knowledge of the great man. And what a man. His music has lifted me so high, so often. Magic from start to finish. More

Posted by BondVsPredator on Saturday February 11, 2012, 14:44

17 RE: 80 Reasons Why John Williams Is The Man
Awesome feature Empire! It is a tribute to the Maestro that you can list so many great tracks and there are still bucket loads more that immediately come to mind: the main theme from "Jane Eyre" and the "Lowood" theme; "Cadillac of the Skies" from "Empire of the Sun"; "Dorinda's First Flight" from "Always"; the Main Title from "Dracula"; the "Call of the Crystal" from the last Indiana Jones monstrosity (that we shall mention no further). I bought the double cassette of Star Wars in 1977... then the double fold out LP... then I was hooked. Thanks John Williams for a lifetime of hummable tunes that work for just about every occasion in life! More

Posted by mellowwellowmann on Saturday February 11, 2012, 11:26

18 Thank You
I really enjoyed this. so many memories, so many wonderful pieces of music! More

Posted by orazzak on Saturday February 11, 2012, 10:06

19 A Humble Genius
Having had the pleasure of meeting him many years ago, he was most humble when I thanked him for the joy he he brought to my life. He said it was his pleasure. From Star Wars to War Horse, no one has brought more to the world of film music than John Williams, and may he continue to produce masterpieces for many years to come. Thank you Empire for THE BEST FEATURE EVER!! More

Posted by ddumbell on Saturday February 11, 2012, 04:26

20
A master composer and what a back catalogue. Did you know Tottenham Hotspur FC walk out to "Duel Of The Fates" for every home game? More

Posted by howie71taylor on Saturday February 11, 2012, 03:32

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