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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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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

21 RE: At no point...
Best on line feature you have ever done Empire, please ensure this is always available to listen too, A true master at work. More

Posted by JIm R on Friday February 10, 2012, 21:06

22 At no point...
...in my life have i come so close to orgasm just from an Empire feature. More

Posted by Swedle on Friday February 10, 2012, 18:27

23 Final Duel mistake.......
When Luke comes out of hiding, after accidentally revealing Leia's paternity to Vader, he doesn't say "Nooooooo!", he defiantly yells "NEVER!!!" before ending the climactic duel... Interestingly enough, that bit of music was also used in the final duel in the Lucasarts game Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. More

Posted by jws1272 on Thursday February 9, 2012, 17:56

24 Missed one!
You should've added 'A Window to the Past' from 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' More

Posted by dimitrifiani on Thursday February 9, 2012, 12:40

25 The Greatest
Undoubtedly the greatest movie composer of all time. My only gripe with this list is the exclusion of The Lost World's main theme. I believe this is actually Spielberg's favourite piece from all the Jurassic Park music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eb6Xk5p9MpQ& feature=related More

Posted by Ballschin on Thursday February 9, 2012, 12:17

26 FLASHMAN
He simply has no equal; nobody else has ever treated every-single film as though it was a first assignment that needed special attention, (unless you knew, how would you know that the guy who did Heartbeeps also did Jane Eyre and, his masterpiece, Superman?) and when he is inspired by what he sees, (most recently by War Horse) we are elated. More

Posted by Frank Comiskey on Thursday February 9, 2012, 10:52

27 The force is with him...
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term 'genius' as "exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability". Although used far too often these days, John Williams REALLY is a genius and I thank him for the many years of great music he has given me (man and boy). Happy Birthday John ...and many more of them. More

Posted by melverley on Thursday February 9, 2012, 09:15

28 Favorite tunes that dont appear here
Visitor in San Diego (from Jurassic Park The Lost World): Pure adrenaline!!!! Dartmoor 1912 (From War Horse) The Battle of Hoth (do I need to tell you???) Dinner With Amelia (The Terminal) Sabrina's Theme (just BEAUTIFUL) Anakin's Dark Deeds (Episode III) EPIC of epic epicness!!!!!! Where Dreams Are Born (A.I) maybe the most BEAUTIFUL track he's ever written!!! i cant helpto cry EVERYTIME) Confluence (MEmoirs of a Geisha) perfect... just perfect in allthe extent of the word THE ENTIRE MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, for me his best album EVER!!! Exsultate Justi (Empire Of The Sun) aleluyah!!!! Homesickness (The Terminal) Am I Beautiful? (Far& Away) Aunt Marge's Waltz (Azkaban) A Window To The Past (Azkaban) Dennis Steals The Embryo (Jurassic Park) The Trek (JP: The Lost World) Rescuing Sarah (JP: The Lost World) Ludlow's Demise (JP: The Lost World) Jango's Escape (Episode II) Princess Leia's Theme Luke And Leia Battle Of The Heroes (Episode III) The Battle Of Endor SaiMore

Posted by John Mulder Simpson on Thursday February 9, 2012, 08:36

29 RE: The Best Feature of 2012 so far!
It's been a long time since I posted here. but this feature is so good!!! I can't start to describe how much I love and admire John Williams, how grateful I am to live in his era (although he is 50 years older than me!!) For me it all began when i was 11 and watched Jurassic Park, now i have more than 40 albums and he never fails to surprise and move me. I owe him SO much! and this year he gave us War Horse, a magnificent and perfect album that is 100% Williams, god how I love that soundtrack!!!! I just can't pick a favorite of his, everything he's done is so close to perfection. man, to think of everything he's done and everything i haven't heard.... I posted a link to this feature on facebook, and i recommended it to everyone, let's all do the same so the whole world knows how lucky we are to have him!!!!!!! finally: OU VERY MUCH, MAESTRO, FOR YOUR ENDLESS AND RESTLESS TALENT, I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART!!!!!!!!!!!! More

Posted by John Mulder Simpson on Thursday February 9, 2012, 08:02

30 The Best Feature of 2012 so far!
Kudos Empire - this truly is a fitting feature for one of Cinema's most important figures. A film is nothing without it's music and it's Williams who fills that void so beautifully, so emotionally and so wonderfully. Rarely do pictures move me to tears, but a Williams score can have me sobbing like a 15 year-old girl watching The Notebook. More

Posted by haydonsmovies on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 12:10

31 Floods of Tears
Having sat and listened to all the excerpts and read this whole blog I am a total mess tears of joy and emotion on my face. The word genius is vastly overused about people with little more than mediocre talent at best, but in John William's case I think it doesn't even come close to describing him. He simply is the one of the greatest musicians and composers alive. More

Posted by mcmikeyboy on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 12:00

32 Great selection
The Witches of Eastwick, The Fury, Amazing Stories AND The Mission ? Dear Empire ... I'm impressed ! More

Posted by Dropje on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 11:58

33 Hook
One of my favorites must be "The Face of Pan", from the Hook soundtrack. Not very famous but still, simply beautiful. More

Posted by buffy_1008 on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 11:28

34 Great Feature
This has to be one of the best features you have ever done Empire, congratulations! Although justifiably, it could just be Williams' music that makes it so great! Happy birthday to one of the greatest composers we'll ever know. More

Posted by magikdethmonkey on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 11:24

35 A true poet and a genius
John WIlliams means more to me than any figure in either movies or music. Good feature Empire! More

Posted by mattpbrown on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 10:17

36 Wonderful Piece Empire
Written with real heart and knowledge. Big salute to Sir John! More

Posted by Blyman on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 10:10

37 Brings tear to the eye
What wonderful nostalgia. Skipping through decades of my emotional development through movies and Williams' music! So glad you mentioned the importance of Home Alone (it's our family's staple Xmas album). By the time we got to War Horse, that's it - I'm in pieces! Only snag is the general oversight of AI. Stored Memories/Monica's Theme is the most beautiful piece he wrote IMO (the slow beginning builds up to hauntingly beautiful & understated climax). And Catch Me If You Can, which has many great cues. But thanks Empire fo collating this for us. Made my day :-) More

Posted by oliraceking on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 10:04

38 Soundtrack of us
The importance of Williams as a greatest composer of our times - and I mean OUR - is confirmed simply by the grounds of those tracks. Just close your eyes and listen to them. And you can see the movies right there in your head. It's all you need. More

Posted by Pelle on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 09:24

39
that was amazing. thank you empire More

Posted by artaylor on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 05:43

40 Here's to another 80 years
Two disappointments were omissions of the last twenty minutes worth of empire strikes back. The reason that film is regarded as the best in the star wars franchise is its finale. The other is the prisoner of Azkaban there are at least twelve tracks worth mentioning. If you ever buy a Williams soundtrack buy these two I promise you its the best things he's done as an entire soundtrack since the first star wars a new hope 35 years ago. More

Posted by GrassyNol on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 00:49

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