Arise Sir John Williams! The popular American composer and conductor can add a Knighthood to his five Oscars, seven BAFTAs, three Emmys, four Golden Globes, 33 (!) Grammys and an RPS Gold Medal.


John Williams, who turned 90 earlier this year, is one of a number of non-UK residents to be honoured in the awards list for ‘foreign nationals’, the last to be approved by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The Honorary Knighthood (or KBE) has been awarded to Williams specifically ‘for Services to Film Music’. Of course his contribution to the art of film music is without question, nor his journey to prominence on the global stage, but many British musicians went along for the ride.

Star Wars (1977) exposed the world to the sound of the London Symphony Orchestra on a level it just hadn’t been before, followed by high-profile film score recordings over the decade that followed. But even before that first visit to a galaxy far, far away, John Williams was no stranger to London. Williams spent a good portion of the 1970s in the capital working on music projects, including long spells on the film musicals Goodbye Mr Chips and Fiddler on the Roof, not to mention film scores like Jane Eyre and even a West End musical – 1975’s Thomas and the King.

After Star Wars Williams returned to London time and again to record some of his greatest film scores and albums, including Superman – The Movie (1978), Dracula (1978), The Empire Striks Back (1980), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Monsignor (1982) and Return of the Jedi (1983). He made notable returns from 1999-2005 to record music for early films in the Harry Potter series and the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, so really has been a key figure in waving the flag for British musicians, engineers and studios.

He joins a venerable list of past musical recipients and is in very fine company indeed: Daniel Barenboim, Alfred Brendel, Plácido Domingo, Bernard Haitink, Yehudi Menuhin, Riccardo Muti, Eugene Ormandy, Murray Perahia, André Previn, Mstislav Rostropovich, Arthur Rubinstein, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Ravi Shankar, Ignacy Jan Paderweski and Georg Solti all received the honour, as did Williams’ long-time friend and collaborator, director Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg received his Knightood at the British Embassy in Washington DC, from the British Ambassador, so it's safe to assume that the same will be the case for Williams.

The composer continues to work hard, conducting concerts in the US and Europe. His latest score for Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans, is due for release in November. The composer intimated that the final entry in the Indiana Jones franchise, underway for next summer, will likely be his final film score as he aims to focus on personal projects – these include a Piano Concerto.

He wasn’t the only music nod in this year’s list, as George Koukis – chair of The Mozartists – was awarded an honorary CBE for services to music, medicine and education.


We named Williams one of the greatest film composers of all time


Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.