5 pieces you probably never knew were by John Williams

· Feb. 7, 2022, 11:54 am
Cast photo for the TV series “Lost in Space” (1965-1968)Cast photo for the TV series “Lost in Space” (1965-1968)20th Century Fox
Cast photo for the TV series “Lost in Space” (1965-1968)

This much we know: John Williams has written some of the greatest musical scores in history. His familiar themes from the “Star Wars” films, “Harry Potter,” “E.T.,” and so many more are cultural touch points no matter your age. When you hear “The Force” theme from “Star Wars,” you know the good guys are about to appear on screen!

This you may not know: Those monster film scores overshadow some of the other works by Williams, some of which are equally mega-hits. You may be able to sing them note for note.

Here are five pieces you’re sure to recognize but might not know John Williams composed.


Olympic Fanfare (1984)

When the Olympics came to Los Angeles in 1984, it was only natural that the organizing committee turned to their city’s most famous composer. By then, Williams had written the music for the “Star Wars” trilogy, “Jaws”, “E.T.”, “Superman” and so many others. But there was a problem: Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream” fanfare was already cemented in people’s minds as the official Olympic music. So Williams simply built on the famous fanfare for his first Olympic piece. Four years later, he wrote his next Olympic piece, “Summon the Heroes,” for the 1988 games. And six years after that, he penned “The Olympic Spirit” for the Atlanta games. It’s safe to say that John Williams is the sound of the Olympics!

NBC’s Sunday Night Football theme: “Wide Receiver” (2006)

As familiar as the voices of Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth, the NFL Sunday Night Football theme conjures up gladiators readying for battle. We have no idea if John Williams is a football fan, but he certainly knows how to get people excited for a battle on the gridiron!

NBC Nightly News theme: “The Mission” (1985)

Spanning Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams and Lester Holt, the audio cue for the nightly news on NBC has remained John Williams’ theme called “The Mission.” It’s the first movement of a four movement suite. NBC has used all four movements for various shows over the years. In fact, skip to 7:15 in the video to hear the opening music for “Meet the Press.” That movement’s actual name is “Scherzo for America.”

Lost in Space (1965-1968)

“Danger, Will Robinson!” For any kid growing up in the 1960’s or 1970’s, “Lost in Space” was must-watch, after-school TV. The theme set the tone for campy, futuristic, out of this world adventure. Johnny Williams, as he was known then, wrote the theme and the incidental music for several of the episodes, helping to give Williams credibility as a Hollywood score composer. 

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Four years before Williams had us all running for the beaches with his two-note theme to Jaws, he won his first Oscar for the adaptation of the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” He wooed violinist Isaac Stern to record the score. A 50th anniversary, newly remastered, 3-CD edition of the soundtrack was released last year and includes rediscovered material from the original score.

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