Celebrating John Williams On His 89th Birthday, The Man Who Never Misses
It is John Williams’ 89th birthday, and he may just be the most important symphonic composer in the modern era. One could dismiss the work of the composers who score films, but (when done right) the music is as much a story as the film itself. Williams doesn’t just score scenes with his unique style of music. He, practically, scores emotion. When Elliot and E.T. take flight or when Anakin Skywalker breathes his last or that damn shark slinks through the water, those scenes would not hit as hard with any other music behind them. Sure, he’s one of the people who saved Star Wars from almost certain failure, but his legacy goes beyond any one franchise. He’s simply the best composer alive and helped introduce generations of people to the joys of classical symphonic music.
Of course, as always, when we talk about “the best” of something, you can just consider it a synonym for our “favorite.” It’s foolish to classify things, especially art, as “best” or “worst.” It’s even sillier to do so with someone as consistently excellent as Williams. So, to celebrate John Williams on his 89th birthday, it might seem like we should list his “best” scores. Only, the entire internet barely has the space to accommodate all of the excellence in his oeuvre. Yes, he scored incredible franchises. He is responsible for the musical soundscape accompanying the Indiana Jones films. He laid the foundation for the Harry Potter musical sound as well. From Jaws to Schindler’s List to Jurassic Park to The Post, his is the music that brings Steven Spielberg’s films to life.
John Williams Can Make Anything Exciting
Honestly, the latter 2010s was a great time for new John Williams music. He returned to write an amazing score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He crafted incredible themes for the characters of Rey and Kylo Ren. Williams also wrote, possibly, the most heroic theme he’s ever come up with in “The March of the Resistance.” Yet, he also wrote the score for Spielberg’s The Post. It told the story of how The Washington Post published “The Pentagon Papers” which laid bare the folly of the Vietnam War. And, with Williams back at the conductor’s podium, meticulous journalism felt as exciting as the X-Wings bearing down on Maz Kanata’s Castle.
The above track is called “Setting the Type” and it accompanies a series of scenes in which the paper is simply publishing their article. It’s just an old-school newspaper printing press doing its thing, but the Williams music makes it feel both important and dangerous. A scene where people decide to publish a news story is given more gravitas and excitement all thanks to the music of John Williams. On his 89th birthday, looking at his work makes one wish that we could have another 89 (or 189) years of John Williams doing his thing.
In fact, when Disney wanted to add Star Wars to their theme park lands, they tapped John Williams to write a suite of music for it. While it does feel like Star Wars music, Williams didn’t just draw from the rich tapestry of themes he created over 40 years and 9 films. Rather, he created something that fits in with the but sounds wholly original. And, he was rewarded for it with a Grammy.
Everyone at Comic Years wishes John Williams the happiest 89th birthday possible, and we remain forever grateful for the hours and hours of wonderful music he’s given us.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below, including your favorite John Williams tracks or scores. (Deep cuts appreciated.)
Featured image by Digboston via Flickr.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.