06 August 2008

Star Wars upside down: Roger Williams & Born Free

Roger Williams is no relation to John Williams. His birth name was Louis Weertz; his stage name was given to him by his record producer.

Both Williams graduated from the Julliard School of Music and went on to be major figures in 20th century music, John America's most recognizable film composer, and Roger one of America's best known and best selling pianists. He racked up 22 hit singles between 1955 and 1969, plus Top Ten albums in 1957, '58, '62, and '66. Like his namesake, one his big hits came from cinema, a cover of John Barry's theme to Born Free, a feature film of the same year based on the life of an American game warden in Kenya.

The song was massively popular in 1966, going on to take the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Three decades later Roger Williams was continuing to feature Born Free in live performances. One such was captured in 1999 at St Louis' Sheldon Concert Hall, a recording broadcast later that year on American television under the title, "Roger Williams: Pop Goes the Ivories." The concert audio was released on CD in 2000.

Of interest to those of you visiting this blog is Williams' claim that the Star Wars theme is nothing but Born Free turned upside down. Listen for yourself here.

You'll never hear Born Free the same again.