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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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Jurassic Park A Theme
First heard in: Jurassic Park (1993)

Given it is about unstoppable forces of nature (be it genetically modified), you might have forgiven Williams for going down the Jaws route for his musical representation of some older fearsome critters. Yet Jurassic Park's theme couldn't be more different. As the Palaeontologists, chaos theoretician and lawyer come across a brachiosaurus grazing by a tree, Williams gives us a string and choral piece — the voices are subtly effective — that speaks to the majesty of the animals and the wonder of the awe-struck scientists (it doesn't speak to the lawyer at all). It is romantic and ennobling and a good shout for the most gorgeous thing that Williams has ever written.

Listen to an excerpt:


Fawkes The Phoenix
First heard in: Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (2003)

Following on from his music for Harry's pet, the second Potter flick saw Williams create a memorable theme for Dumbledore's bird, Fawkes the Phoenix. It's a lovely lilting ditty that as the drama intensifies, Williams twists into something edgier during the duel with the basilisk, punctuating the battle with brass flourishes and explosive percussion. But it is best, as here, in this simple elegant arrangement.

Listen to an excerpt:


Mom Returns And Finale
First heard in: Home Alone (1990)

If you were looking to buy a John Williams Christmas album — the kind that Michael Bublé does — then Home Alone fits the bill. The first time the composer worked with filmmaker Chris Columbus — they have worked together five times in all — Williams' score throws every kind of tinkly, sleigh bell-y sound in the songbook mixing it with up with kind of comedy music that Scott Bradley composed for Tom & Jerry to describe Kevin McAlister (Macaulay Culkin)'s run-ins with the two hapless criminals (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern). You may require insulin to listen to this and it only really makes sense in the run-up to Christmas but it is a collection of pretty tunes that also highlights another bi-product of Williams' success. Over the years, he has done arguably more than anyone to introduce kids to classical music, be it Star Wars in the '70s, Indy and E.T. in the '80s and Harry Potter in the noughties — Home Alone and Jurassic Park represent this influence in the '90s, hugely popular family films that did wonders for exposing children to quality music rather than Mr. Blobby novelty records.

At the heart of the film is the song Somewhere In My Memory and Williams reworks the tune into the spine of the score. Despite being the most Oscar nominated person alive, Williams has had a chequered history with the Best Song category—chequered in that he has never actually won it. In the '70s, his nominated song Nice To Be Around from Cinderella Liberty lost to The Way We Were. In the '80s, If We Were In Love from Yes, Giorgio was pipped to the post by Up Where We Belong In the '90s, When You're Alone from Hook and Moonlight from Sabrina were beaten to the punch by Beauty And The Beast and Colors Of The Wind (Pocahontas) respectively. Somewhere In My Memory lost out to Dick Tracy's Sooner Or Later (I Always Get My Man) but Williams may have had the last laugh: Somewhere In My Memory has become a holiday staple in the US, often performed by choirs and schools. Not even Madonna is singing Sooner Ot Later (I Always Get My Man) any more.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Keeper Of The Grail
First heard in: Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

"The search for the grail," says Marcus Brody to Indiana Jones at one point during the Last Crusade, "is the search for the divine in all of us." To wit, Williams digs out a graceful theme, very English and pastoral in nature, that suggests both the mystique of the artifact and the dignity of the keeper himself. As Indy knows — but the baddies don't — the Grail is a thing of noble simplicity bereft of any flashy adornments. Williams' stately motif is a perfect replica.

Listen to an excerpt:


TIE Fighter Attack
First heard in: Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope (1977)

No composer can do granite-hard battle music better than Williams and this is one of the finest examples. As Han and Luke wait it out for a TIE Fighter onslaught, the orchestra plays with anxious, expectant rhythms. The wait comes to an end with a broadside of chopping strings and bold-as-brass brass that delivers a full blown adrenaline rush but a surprisingly catchy one too — you just can't help but sing along.

Listen to an excerpt:

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Have Your Say
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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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