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John Christopher Williams (born 24 April 1941) is a Grammy Award winning Australian classical guitarist and long term resident of the United Kingdommarker. He is widely regarded by some to be one of the finest guitarists of his generation.


Born in Melbournemarker, Australia to an English father (Len Williams, founder of The Monkey Sanctuarymarker in Cornwall, England) and an Australian-Chinese mother (a daughter of well known Melbourne barrister William Ah Ket), educated at the Friern Barnet Grammar School, London, Williams was taught initially by his father. At the age of twelve he went to Spain to study under Andrés Segovia. During this time he was also mentored by composer Ross Stewart . For several years Williams studied under Stewart until he later attended the Royal College of Musicmarker in London, studying piano because the school did not have a guitar department at the time. Upon graduation, he was offered the opportunity to create such a department. Being such a lover of the instrument, he seized the opportunity and ran it for the first two years. Williams has maintained links with the College (and with the Royal Northern College of Musicmarker in Manchestermarker) ever since.

Williams is best known as a classical guitarist, but has explored many different musical traditions. He has collaborated with Julian Bream and Paco Peña and was a member of the fusion group Sky. He is also a composer and arranger.

Williams has commissioned guitar concertos from composers such as Stephen Dodgson, André Previn, Patrick Gowers, Richard Harvey and Steve Gray. He has also worked with composers from his native Australia, including Phillip Houghton, Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards and Nigel Westlake, to produce guitar works that capture the spirit of his homeland.

He recorded "Cavatina" by Stanley Myers. The piece had originally been written for piano but at Williams' invitation, it was re-written for guitar and was expanded by Myers. After this transformation, it was used for a film, The Walking Stick (1970). In 1973, Cleo Laine wrote lyrics and recorded it as the song "She Was Beautiful" accompanied by John Williams. The guitar version became a worldwide hit single when it was used as the theme tune to the Oscar-winning film The Deer Hunter (1979).

At the invitation of producers Martin Lewis he created a highly acclaimed classical-rock fusion duet with celebrated rock guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who for Townshend's anthemic Won't Get Fooled Again for the 1979 Amnesty International benefit show The Secret Policeman's Ball. The duet was featured on the resulting album and the film version of the show - bringing Williams to the broader attention of the rock audience.

The relationship with Lewis led to Williams' classical-rock fusion band Sky being invited to give the first rock concert to be held at Westminster Abbeymarker — a benefit concert for Amnesty International that Lewis produced in February 1981. [23678]

Williams is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Willams has explained that he uses amplification for concerts in large halls.

Williams and his third wife Kathy reside in London and Australia. He has a daughter Kate, now an established jazz pianist, from his first marriage (to Lindy); and a son, Charlie Williams, from his second marriage (to broadcaster Sue Cook).

John Williams was instrumental in bringing the works of Agustín Barrios back to popularity. Williams has often spoken highly of Barrios' work, even stating that he believes Barrios is the greatest composer of guitar music.

John Williams is a visiting professor and honorary member of the Royal Academy of Musicmarker in London.

Thoughts on guitar education and teaching

John Williams has expressed his frustration and concern with guitar education and teaching, if it is too one-sided, e.g. focusing only on solo playing, instead of giving guitar students a better education including ensemble playing, sight-reading and a focus on phrasing and tone production/variation. Williams notes that "students [are] preoccupied with fingerings and not notes, much less sounds"; some are able "to play [...] difficult solo works from memory", but "have a very poor sense of ensemble [playing] or timing". He notes that students play works from the solo repertoire that is often still too difficult, so that the teachers often put more "emphasis [...] on getting through the notes rather than playing the real substance of each note". To encourage phrasing, tone production and all-round musicianship, Williams arranges for students to play together in ensembles, choosing works from the existing classical-music repertoire, such as the "easier Haydn String Quartets".


In the following list, compilations or re-editions are denoted by (C) after the album title.


  • 2008 From a Bird
  • 2006 John Williams & John Etheridge: Places Between (Sony)
  • 2006 Great Performances - Bach Lute Suites (C) (Sony)
  • 2005 Testament (BBC/Testament)
  • 2005 The Essential John Williams (2CD) (C) (Metro)
  • 2005 Bryn Terfel: Simple Gifts (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • 2004 The Ultimate Guitar Collection (2CD) (C) (Sony)
  • 2004 Rosemary and Thyme (Sanctuary Classics)
  • 2003 El Diablo Suelto (Sony)
  • 2003 The Seville Concert (Expanded Edition) (Sony)
  • 2003 The Guitarist (Expanded Edition) (Sony)
  • 2001 Perpetual Motion (Sony)
  • 2001 Invocación Y Danza (C) (Sony)
  • 2001 John Williams Plays Bach (C) (Sony) "Music For You"
  • 2001 The Magic Box (Sony)
  • 2000 English Guitar Music (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 2000 The Essential John Williams (C) (Metro)
  • 2000 Classic Williams - Romance of the Guitar (C) (Sony)


  • 1999 Plague and the Moonflower (Altus)
  • 1999 When Night Falls (Sony)
  • 1999 The Prayer Cycle (Sony)
  • 1999 Schubert and Giuliani (Sony)
  • 1996 Great Performances - Rodrigo (C) (Sony)
  • 1999 Guitar Moods (C) (Decca)
  • 1999 Bach and Scarlatti (C) (Belart)
  • 1999 Spanish Guitar Favourites (C) (Decca)
  • 1998 The Guitarist (Sony)
  • 1998 In My Life (MCA)
  • 1997 Great Expectations (Atlantic)
  • 1997 The Very Best of John Williams (C) (Crimson)
  • 1997 The Black Decameron (Sony)
  • 1996 John Williams Plays the Movies (and The World of John Williams) (Sony)
  • 1996 Bach Lute Music: Volume 2 (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 1996 Bach Lute Music: Volume 1 (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 1996 Paganini, Scarlatti, Giuliani & Villa-Lobos (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 1996 Dodgson and Rodrigo (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 1996 Concertos by Harvey and Gray (Sony)
  • 1996 The Mantis & the Moon (Sony)
  • 1995 George Martin presents the Medici Quartet (Classic FM)
  • 1994 Julian Bream and John Williams Ultimate Collection (C) (BMG)
  • 1994 The Great Paraguayan (From The Jungles of Paraguay) (Sony)
  • 1994 From Australia (Sony)
  • 1993 Together (Expanded Edition on CD) (RCA)
  • 1993 Together Again (Expanded Edition on CD) (RCA)
  • 1993 The Seville Concert (Sony)
  • 1992 Iberia (Sony)
  • 1992 Takemitsu (Sony)
  • 1991 The Best of John Williams (C) Music Club
  • 1991 Rodrigo, Giuliani and Vivaldi (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 1991 Latin American Guitar Music by Barrios and Ponce (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 1991 Guitar Recital (C) (Decca)
  • 1990 Spanish Guitar Music (C) (Essential Classics)
  • 1990 Vivaldi Concertos (Sony)
  • 1990 Bach: Four Lute Suites (C) (CBS)
  • 1990 Leyenda (CBS)


  • 1989 The Golden Guitar (C) (CBS)
  • 1989 Rodrigo and Albéniz (C) (CBS)
  • 1989 Rodrigo Concertos (C) (CBS)
  • 1989 Guitar Concertos (2CD) (C) (CBS)
  • 1989 Spanish Guitar Favourites (C) CBS
  • 1989 The Great Guitar Concertos (2CD) (C) (CBS)
  • 1989 Spirit of the Guitar: Music of the Americas (CBS/Sony)
  • 1988 John Williams - The Collection (C) (Castle)
  • 1988 The Baroque Album (CBS/Sony)
  • 1988 A Fish Called Wanda (Milan)
  • 1987 Unforgettable John Williams (C) (Castle)
  • 1987 Fragments of a Dream CBS/ (Sony)
  • 1987 Paul Hart Concerto for Guitar and Jazz Orchestra (CBS/Sony)
  • 1987 Emma's War (Filmtrax)
  • 1986 Le Grand Classique (C) (CBS/Guy Laroche)
  • 1986 The Essential Collection (C) (Castle)
  • 1986 Classic Aid: Concert in Aid of The UNHCR (CBS)
  • 1986 Echoes of London (CBS)
  • 1985 Hounds of Love (EMI Manhattan)
  • 1985 Bach, Handel, Marcello: Concertos (CBS/Sony)
  • 1984 Rodrigo (CBS)
  • 1983 Cadmium ... (Ariola)
  • 1983 The Guitar is the Song: A Folksong Collection (CBS/Sony)
  • 1983 Let The Music Take You (CBS/QNote)
  • 1983 The Honorary Consul Island (single)
  • 1983 Sky Five Live (Ariola)
  • 1982 Portrait of John Williams (CBS/Sony)
  • 1982 Just Guitars: A Concert in Aid of The Samaritans (CBS)
  • 1982 Sky Forthcoming (Ariola)
  • 1982 John Williams and Peter Hurford Play Bach (CBS)
  • 1981 Sky 3 (Ariola)
  • 1981 Echoes of Spain - Albeniz (CBS)
  • 1981 Great Performances: Rodrigo (C) (CBS)
  • 1980 Sky 2 (Ariola)
  • 1980 The Guitar Music of John Williams (C) (Tellydisc)
  • 1980 The Platinum Collection (2LP) (C) (Cube Records)
  • 1980 Guitar Quintets (CBS)


  • 1979 Spotlight on John Williams (2LP) (C) (Cube Records)
  • 1979 Bridges (C) (Lotus Music/K-Tel)
  • 1979 Morning Sky (C) (Cube Records)
  • 1979 John Williams at His Best (C) (Neon)
  • 1979 Cavatina(C) (Cube Records)
  • 1979 The Deer Hunter (Capitol)
  • 1979 The Secret Policeman's Ball (Island)
  • 1979 Sky (Ariola)
  • 1979 Recollections (C) (CBS)
  • 1979 Julian Bream & John Williams Live (RCA)
  • 1979 John Williams plays Stephen Dodgson (C) (CBS)
  • 1978 Manuel Ponce (CBS)
  • 1978 Travelling (Cube Records)
  • 1978 John Williams Collection (C) (CBS)
  • 1978 John Williams Plays Paganini (C) (CBS)
  • 1978 Stevie (CBS)
  • 1978 Malcolm Arnold and Leo Brouwer Concertos (CBS)
  • 1977 Mermaid Frolics (Polydor)
  • 1977 John Williams ~ Barrios (CBS)
  • 1977 Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Arnold and Dodgson Concertos (CBS)
  • 1977 Guitar Recital (Double LP) (C) (Decca)
  • 1977 John Williams plays Bach and Scarlatti (C) (Decca)
  • 1977 John Williams plays Spanish Favourites (C) (Decca)
  • 1977 John Williams Plays Patrick Gowers (C) (CBS)
  • 1977 The Sly Cormorant Argo (Decca)
  • 1976 Villa-Lobos and Scarlatti (C) (CBS)
  • 1976 John Williams and Friends (CBS)
  • 1976 Duos (CBS)
  • 1976 Best Friends (with Cleo Laine)(RCA)
  • 1975 Bach: Complete Lute Music (CBS)
  • 1974 John Williams' Greatest Hits (C) (CBS)
  • 1974 Rodrigo & Villa-Lobos (CBS)
  • 1974 Together Again (a.k.a. Julian and John 2) (RCA)
  • 1974 Rhapsody (CBS)
  • 1973 The Height Below (Cube Records)
  • 1973 Music from England, Japan, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico (CBS)
  • 1972 John Williams Plays More Spanish Music and Other Favourites (C) (CBS)
  • 1972 Greatest Hits-The Guitar (C) (Columbia)
  • 1972 Previn and Ponce Concertos (CBS)
  • 1972 Gowers Chamber Concerto, Scarlatti Sonatas (CBS)
  • 1972 Together (a.k.a. Julian and John) (RCA)
  • 1972 Guitar Recital (I & II) (C) (Ace of Diamonds)
  • 1971 Music for Guitar and Harpsichord (CBS)
  • 1971 Changes (Cube Records)
  • 1971 200 Motels (United Artists)
  • 1971 The Raging Moon (EMI)
  • 1971 Songs of Freedom - Theodorakis (CBS)
  • 1970 Webern: Complete Works (CBS/Philips)
  • 1970 John Williams Plays Spanish Music (CBS)


  • 1969 Songs for Voice and Guitar (CBS)
  • 1969 Concertos by Vivaldi and Giuliani (CBS)
  • 1969 Virtuoso Variations for Guitar (CBS)
  • 1968 Haydn and Paganini (CBS)
  • 1968 Two Guitar Concertos (Rodrigo and Dodgson) (CBS)
  • 1967 More Virtuoso Music for Guitar (CBS)
  • 1965 Two Guitar Concertos (Rodrigo and Castelnuovo-Tedesco) (CBS)
  • 1965 Virtuoso Music For Guitar (CBS)
  • 1964 CBS [Columbia] Records Presents John Williams (CBS)
  • 1963 Jacqueline du Pré: Recital (EMI)
  • 1963 Twenty Studies for Guitar (Westminster)
  • 1961 A Spanish Guitar (Westminster)
  • 1961 Folk Songs (with Wilfred Brown:Tenor)
  • 1961 Folk-Songs (L'Oiseau-Lyre)


  • 1958 Guitar Recital Volumes 1 & 2 (Delysé)

Awards and Recognitions

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance BRIT Award for Best Classical Recording
  • John Williams for Portrait of John Williams (1983)

Reviews and Controversy

  • Reviews
  • "Williams sailed with characteristic fluency through the Suite for Lute [Bach Partita No. 3] [...] there are perhaps more scholarly performances that would include some creative ornamentation, but Williams played with a rhythmic solidity, fluid sense of line and a romantic rather than a Baroque rubato. There were also uncharacteristic accents, disassociated color changes, and surprising glissandos from time to time."
  • No guitarist alive [...] could [...] rattle through a Bach Gigue more cleanly. And yet, there remained something stiff and standoffish - prosaic, almost - about much of the performance.
  • This appearance, his first solo recital in New York in 13 years, testified to the continued healthy state of his fingers, but left one unpersuaded of his communicative powers on deeper levels. He is a musician who seems reluctant to reveal himself in his playing, so seriously constricting the expressive range of his music making that piece after piece comes out sounding much like what went before. There is such a thing in music as brilliant sameness.


  1. The International Who's Who: 1984/85, 2004
  2. [1]

External links

Articles and Interviews

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