Who Wrote the Theme from ‘Jaws’?

Two notes. That’s it. Duuuunnnn duun. Two notes are all it takes for listeners’ hearts to drop into their stomachs, and for their goose-bumping flesh to break out in a cold sweat. Duuunnnnnnnn dun. Just two notes evoke terror, making you wonder where the threat is coming from, asking yourself “Is it behind me? Underneath me? Are we really going to need a bigger boat?” Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn.

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The theme from the 1975 shark-infested blockbuster, Jaws, is thrilling, terrifying, but most of all, impressive. Let’s dive into the genius behind those two fear-inducing notes.

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Who Wrote It?

The alternating notes that punctuate the iconic heart-palpating tune are the product of famed film composer John Williams.

Lester D. Friedman’s book Citizen Spielberg touches on Williams’ reasoning for crafting such a simplistic theme. He explained wanting the sound to have “the effect of grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable.” It proved to be highly effective. The suspenseful theme plays into the apprehension and the sense of danger felt throughout the film.

While he initially thought it too elementary, the film’s director and longtime Williams collaborator, Steven Spielberg, has continually praised the theme that the composer crafted. As Citizen Spielberg points out, the director has called the music “the soul of Jaws,” adding that Williams gave the film “an identity, a personality, a soul.”

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Throughout their respective careers, the two have had an incredible partnership, one of complete trust. Spielberg has been quoted as saying, “Johnny Williams I have very little control over, except we listen to music together and I’ll show him my film and try to talk it through and give him a sense of my taste in a musical atmosphere. But once Johnny sits down at the piano, it’s his movie, it’s his score.”

Watch the two discuss the legendary theme from Jaws in the video below.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

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