John Williams First Composer in History to Receive AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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On Thursday night, living legend John Williams, 84, became the first composer to ever be honored with the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was presented with the award by his longtime friend and colleague, film director Steven Spielberg.

Over the span of his illustrious career, Williams has composed some of the most memorable and haunting music in the history of film for such movies as Jaws, Superman, E.T., the Indiana Jones movies as well as the iconic Star Wars.

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Williams is the second most Academy Award nominated individual, after Walt Disney, having been nominated 50 times and winning the Oscar five times.

Samples of his most famous scores were played during the ceremony as the orchestra struck up magical renditions from both Schindler’s List, which Williams won an Oscar for, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

“I am enormously grateful to film,” Williams said upon acceptance, “for giving composers the broadest possible audience worldwide that any composer has ever enjoyed. Certainly Beethoven would have shunned Hollywood but Wagner would have had his own studio out there in Burbank…”

Williams, an early jazz pianist hailing from Queens, New York, still continues to work and is currently working on a score for an upcoming Spielberg film, The BFG. The director always seems amazed at the brilliance of Williams’ work. His music, it seems, becomes an actual character in the films.

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“Without John Williams, bikes don’t really fly,” said Spielberg referencing the memorable scene from E.T.. “John, you breathe belief into every film.”

Many other John Williams admirers were on hand to pay tribute to the composer’s achievements including Harrison Ford, J.J. Abrams, Drew Barrymore, George Lucas, Tom Hanks, Seth MacFarlane and Kobe Bryant.

MacFarlane said that Williams was a true original and a throw back to a bygone era when composers used actual orchestras rather than electronics as is mostly done in many films today.

Williams has written the music for more than 100 films and has created the theme music for such staples as the Olympics, NBC’s Nightly News and Sunday Night Football.

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Actor Harrison Ford knows Williams well having had the distinction of playing two of the most legendary characters in the history of the movies; Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Ford knows well that the Williams scores are part of the fabric of his films.

“This is an example,” Ford said, “of entertainment elevated to the level of art. John, you’re a genius.”

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About the author: Kevin Sawyer

 

Kevin Sawyer is a widely published freelance writer from Tampa. He has written thousands of articles on thousands of subjects for hundreds of companies, website blogs, magazines, and news sites. He is also the author of several ebooks and specializes in SEO content writing as well as social media management and marketing.

 

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