Well I was going to give a shout out to Mr Charles Dickens yesterday, since it was his birthday, but I knew that John Williams was today, so I figured have one big party for the two of them.  Plus, they both have been huge influences in their respective fields.  So Since I’m a day late, I’ll start with good ole’ Chuck as his good friends used to call him (in a fact I made up for this blog)

Charles John Huffman Dickens was born in Landport, Portsmouth, England (why do they always list the county and city?) on February 7th 1812, incidentally, there was also an 8.8 on the Richter scale earthquake that day along the Mississippi river in New Madrid, it was powerful enough that islands disappeared and lakes were created, but back to Charles.  His was one of 8 children, originally growing up in Portsmouth, but the family started to hit hard times so they moved to Camden Town in London.  His parents were always living beyond their means and eventually his father was sent to debtors prison.

His first story was published in 1833, in the Monthly Magazine, A London Magazine.  The name of the story was A Dinner at Poplar Walk.  After Poplar Walk he became a political journalist.  Although, somewhat unexpected he didn’t write articles, instead he used sketches to get his point across.  He also became an editor for the Bentley’s Miscellany.  He was editor for 3 years before leaving the position.  During this time he also worked on Oliver Twist, he Old Curiosity Shop andBarnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty.  These were all published episodically each month, then eventually turned into books.  This was something that Dickens Pioneered that is still used today.

Dickens also would perform readings of his most popular works, he would also incorporate his life into his books, such as experiences he had growing up and later in his life a train wreck he survived.  He wrote many great novels and stories throughout his career and inspired current and future writers for decades if not centuries.  Sadly he died at the age of 58, young by today’s standards.  He wanted a regular funeral and even had a burial spot picked, but after his death he was buried in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey, he was then and still is one of Britain’s greatest and most popular wiriters.  There is so much more to tell about him, but I still need to talk to about John Williams, so if you want to know more about Dickens there are plenty of resources availible.

Now onto….John Williams. John Towner Williams was born on February 8, 1932 in Flushing, Queens, New York.  His career spans almost 60 years, he is a classically trained composer, pianist and conductor.  His father was the drummer in the Jazz quintet the Raymond Scott Quintet. 

The Williams family would eventually move to Los Angeles where John would eventually attend UCLA. While in LA he also studied with the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.  In the early 50’s he was drafted into the Air Force where he was the conductor for the Air Force band (not a bad gig) After his military service he moved back to New York where he enrolled in the Julliard School.  While in New York at Julliard he worked as a Jazz Pianist throughout the city, He even met and worked with Henry Mancini.  He also was the bandleader and music arranger for some Frankie Laine albums.

After Julliard he moved back to LA.  He began composing music for TV and films, a couple of the most notable ones would be the Lost in Space theme and the music for the pilot of Giligans Island.  He was prolific in his composing and began working for MGM.  On the first few films he shared credit, the first film where he was the sole person was Because They’re Young.  After that his film scoring career really started to take off.  He scored such films as, Valley of the Dolls (1967), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Images (1972), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Towering Inferno (1974), Earthquake (1974, The Cowboys (1972) starring John Wayne.  

In the mid 70’s an up and coming film maker named Steven Spielberg took notice of Williams also,  Spielberg asked him to write a couple of film scores for him and John accepted.  Once again they were blockbusters, Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).  During this time Spielberg was talking to a good friend of his named George Lucas.  George Lucas was working on a small film at the time, Star Wars (1977) and needed an epic score to match the space epic.  Lucas approached Williams who would eventually agree.

In the late 70’s Williams scored Superman (1978) for Richard Donner, then it was back to Lucas and Spielberg for For Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

John Williams has scored some of the most recognized movie music of all time and continues to do so.  Most recently he has composed music for Munich (2005),  The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), Revenge of the Sith (2005), The first 3 Harry Potter movies, after a short break he came back with  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) and War Horse (2011). With five Academy Award wins, four Golden Globe Awards, seven BAFTA Awards, and 21 Grammy Awards and With 47 Academy Award nominations he could very well be one of the greatest composers of all time, American or otherwise, and 80 years old he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So here’s to you John Williams Happy Birthday!

 

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