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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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Theme From Superman (Main Title)
First heard in: Superman The Movie (1978)

Jerry Goldsmith, who had scored Richard Donner's previous film The Omen, was due to score this big-budget take on the Man Of Steel — Goldsmith's score for Capricorn One even played over Superman teaser trailers. When scheduling conflicts forced Goldsmith to leave the project, Williams stepped in and delivered some of his best work in record-breaking time. Like many Williams main themes, Superman's signature tune is built around two killer elements — a brass fanfare that suggest the character's Olympian qualities and a more spirited theme that embodies his comic book heroism without ever descending into pulp. It is the benchmark that any superhero theme must reach — Bryan Singer understood this and just borrowed it wholesale for Superman Returns — and if the USA had any sense, they would make it their national anthem.

Listen to an excerpt:


JFK End Titles
First heard in: JFK (1991)

Williams has composed music for US Presidents in both movies —John Adams in Amistad, Nixon for er Nixon — and actuality — Williams composed Air And Simple Gifts for President Obama's inauguration — but his music for his second collaboration with Oliver Stone remains the best. Williams' theme pays tribute to the nobility and optimism Kennedy represented yet the mournful trumpet solo — stand up soloist Tim Morrison — expresses the regret and tragedy at his passing. Williams is currently in Chicago researching his next presidential anthem for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Land Race
First heard in: Far And Away (1992)

"You're a corker, Shannon. What a corker you are," says Tom Cruise's Joseph Donnelly to Nicole Kidman's flame-haired Shannon Christie in Ron Howard's oirish immigrants in America picture yet this isn't the tip of the film's Gaelic gall. As is Hollywood law regarding any American movie with Irish subject matter, Williams used the Chieftans AND Enya to evoke Donnelly's homeland — there are lots of pipes, penny whistles, fiddles and bodhrans —in some lovely lyrical passages but the strongest material comes in his use of music associated with Westerns to create the energy of the Oklahoma Land Rush and the optimism of a new frontier.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Towering Inferno Main Theme
First heard in: The Towering Inferno (1976)

Before he was the king of the blockbusters, Williams was the master of disaster. The composer had collaborated with producer Irwin Allen during his TV days — his Lost In Space Theme is a mini masterpiece — and had turned in the score for The Poseidon Adventure and the non-Allen produced Earthquake. Still, this remains his best work in the disaster arena, the highlight being the opening overture that covers the first five minutes of the film, a helicopter journey revealing the majestic but doomed building. From this perspective, it feels a bit '70s but it is a rousing, urgent expansive adventure theme that has more wattage than the all-star cast put together.

Listen to an excerpt:


Amazing Stories — Main Title
First heard in: Amazing Stories (1985)

It was such a great idea on paper. Weaned on shows such as Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Steven Spielberg conceived Amazing Stories as a place to bring to life his stories, plots and high concepts that never found a home in cinemas, delivered by big name directors with the panache and the production values of a big screen outing. This sense of scale dictated a title sequence that details the entire history of storytelling from campfire tales, via ancient civilisation, books, CG knights, ghosts, spaceship to a family sitting around a TV watching the campfire storyteller spinning his yarn. To accompany the intro, Williams delivers one of his most sprightly adventure tunes — from this perspective it is also works as a time machine taking you right back to the mid '80s. Unsurprisingly, Williams also composed the score for Spielberg's two entries — Ghost Train and The Mission — and while the series was wildly uneven, Williams' theme toon still shines.

Listen to an excerpt:

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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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