Musical Genius: America’s Gift to the World

I’m not into music the way my wife is, whose collection of music is vast in its eclectic sweep. I confess to being hooked on literary reads across the years, which includes poetry as well.

Still, I’m repeatedly stirred by music from many genres when I take time to listen. It’s why I try never to miss the annual Kennedy Center award broadcasts, introducing me to artists, well known to the public, but largely new to me.

I do subscribe to Apple Music, my way of catch-up for what I’ve missed across the years and what’s happening now. With my new Bose headphones, the stereo comes in, loud and clear. I’m transfixed. Oh my god! What have I missed? I’m this kid unleashed in a chocolate factory after hours.

One music artist I’ve come to especially appreciate is composer, pianist and conductor John Williams, prolific genius behind many of Hollywood’s award-winning musical scores. An American treasure who belongs to the world, he turned 91 this past February.

Where would Spielberg and Lukas be without him: winner of five Academy Awards for Best Original Score, think Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, ET, Star Wars, and Schindler’s List.

Collectively, Williams has garnered 25 Grammy Awards, five Academy Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and 53 Academy Award nominations.

But this isn’t the whole story. Williams wrote the theme music for the 1984 Olympics among still other feats independent of Hollywood.

He’s also served as principal conductor of the renowned Boston Pops (1980-1993) and has composed numerous classical works.

In 2004, he was honored by the Kennedy Center.

In 2005, the American Film Institute selected his score to 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, as the greatest film score of all time.

In 2009, President Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of Arts in the East Room of the White House, “America’s highest honour specifically given for achievement in the arts conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the American people” (

Recently, Williams announced his retirement from writing film scores, only to take it back: “I’ve at least 10 more years to go. I’ll stick around for a while”(

One prize has eluded him: The Presidential Medal of Freedom, our country’s highest award to a civilian for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors” (

Surely, it’s long overdue, a remiss I hope President Biden will promptly address, since time is of the essence.


Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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