From 1975 to 1981, John Williams produced 5 of the most memorable scores in modern Hollywood. The scores were all written for a full orchestra and along with his previous work for The Tower Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake, he defined the sound of the 1970’s blockbuster, before synthesizers and electronics began to dominate ‘80s film scores. Many of his themes are firmly ingrained in pop culture and are frequently played at awards shows, sporting events and parodied.
In his first collaboration with Steven Spielberg he created the famous two-note score for Jaws, which went on to win the Oscar for best score. The mechanical sharks created for the shooting frequently malfunctioned in the water, forcing Spielberg to improvise and only hint at the shark’s presence most of the time. As a result, it was Williams’ score which effectively became associated with the creature.
Two years later, he had his first collaboration with another up-and-coming director, George Lucas, and the famous Star Wars theme was born. The rousing title theme which plays during the ‘opening crawl’ is frequently considered to be the most recognized film score. That year, John Williams received two Oscar nominations – for Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Spielberg and for Star Wars. He won for the latter.
A year later, he composed the heroic introduction to Superman the Movie and received yet another Oscar nomination. I actually feel that the Superman title theme is even more thrilling than that of the Star Wars opening.
In 1980, Williams returned with the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back and created The Imperial March. I don’t think there is any other piece of film music which is so instantly associated with a villain. In recent times, I would say that Henry Jackman’s Magneto theme from X-Men: First Class is the only one that comes close to capturing the essence of a screen villain, but still a distant second to The Imperial March. This produced yet another Oscar nomination for Williams.
Another year, another Oscar nomination; this time for the rousing score of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a collaboration between two of Williams’ favourite film makers – Spielberg and Lucas.
Williams continued to write scores for all Spielberg’s films thereafter. In fact, I think he gets nominated for an Oscar every time he scores the music for a Spielberg film. He also composed the film score for two other big blockbusters – Home Alone and Harry Potter. But the only piece that I think reached the same heights as his work in the late 70’s is the beautiful string-dominated main theme for Jurassic Park in 1993.
With 48 Oscar nominations (and 5 wins, the first of which was for Fiddler on the Roof in 1971 and the last one for 1993’s Schindler’s List) , Williams is the 2nd most nominated person after Walt Disney.