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What do we know about Esther Williams -- John's mom?


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So on his mother's side, Williams has French-English roots (I knew the brilliance of JANE EYRE had to come from somewhere! ;)).

I know this probably wasn't written with serious intent, but to seek the roots of Williams musical styles through past family ethnic origins is quite far-fetched.

As Chaac put quite well, his long past ancestors have little effect on the man he is today. There's no "musical genius" gene that got passed down the family you know ;)

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...and she bore from her womb, the berry of her loins, the fruit of her loom- our lord and savior JW, and wrapped him in a swaddling black turtleneck and laid him in a manger.

This isn't John's mother or there is a mistake on the site. She has actually lived for almost a hundred years -  97, to be exact.   Read it:  https://www.espn.com/blog/music/post/_/id/98/composer

Yes, as Pawel says, the death date at that site is incorrect. Perhaps they got it confused with John sr.'s death date.   Esther's dad David Towner (the cabinetmaker) emigrated from Quebec in

I bet if we look further back we can trace him to Johan Wilhelm Bach or Ludwig Johan van Beethoven or Wolfgang Johan Amadeus Towner Mozart, the less known yet equally genetically gifted relatives of those three greats. ;)

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So on his mother's side, Williams has French-English roots (I knew the brilliance of JANE EYRE had to come from somewhere! ;)).

I know this probably wasn't written with serious intent, but to seek the roots of Williams musical styles through past family ethnic origins is quite far-fetched.

As Chaac put quite well, his long past ancestors have little effect on the man he is today. There's no "musical genius" gene that got passed down the family you know ;)

Yeah, that was basically a joke about JANE EYRE.

Still, there's some "spiritual comfort" in the knowledge that the composer of that film has some roots from England a couple of generations back, roughly around the time (or perhaps a little before) the events of that book took place. A "fun fact", if you will.

I DO disagree with you, however, in the assessment that you can't trace musical "genes" (or rather the genes that encompass musical gifts) back in history. Sometimes, they may skip a generation, but I definitely believe in the research that has been done on this issue.

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Do such genes even exist?

Starting with the idea that gene is basically a mould for a protein, I'd need a more specific explanation of how that can happen.

I imagine they wouldn't encompase musical gifts, but rather other characteristics that might or might not be put to use through music. And even then, from a mere ability with music to sheer genius there's a considerable distance.

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Trying desperately to move this back on-topic, there are some other interesting things that can be found from the records above.

* Esther lived to be almost a 100 years (a good sign for our own Johnny!)

* Esther was 23 years old when she gave birth to John

* When she herself was born in 1909, her father David was 50 years old and her mother Ada 46 years old. That's very late, as far the time period is concerned

* John's grandparents were probably pioneers of the "wild west". No wonder Williams did several great Western scores! Maybe his grandmother told him some stories from their past that ignited creative sparks. John was only 4 when David passed away, but Ada died in 1949, when John was 17.

* Both grandparents on Esther's side were born in Canada. While John served in the air force (1952-1955), he spent much of his time in Newfoundland in Canada -- where he also scored his very first movie -- YOU ARE WELCOME (1954).

In any case, you could piece together a whole story (semi-fictional) based purely on the few facts and dates and names you have. A story about Williams' young years (and before).

Still, none of this tells us what Esther did for a living or if she was involved in some form of creative enterprise that may have trickled down on to our own Johnny. That's the biggest mystery that I'd like to find an answer to.

Awesome research! This is great stuff! Thank you for this

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Well it has to be admitted that Thor did a fine job researching this stuff. :)

He should host his own show, Inside The Composer's Studio.

Oh God, that would be a dream show for many of us! I would love to host it, but somehow I doubt I'm quite as famous as James Lipton. :)

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This has absolutely no bearing on John Williams' influences or Esther, for that matter, but I've managed to trace Esther's ancestors back to 1742. That's some pretty cool "extra information" I've stumbled on to by pure coincidence. At least I think it's cool. I'm sure most of you find it silly. :)

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Actually, I do have intentions of writing a John Williams book some day.

Please do!

That show is originally a BBC production. It's since been sold all around the world ;)

Really? Any celebrities in the original English version that we would know over here? Maybe it's worth checking out. I love genealogy!

It's worth it, it's quite interesting. As for people you might know; Martin Freeman, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Rowling, David Tennant, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart... :)

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Update:

Amazingly, I found Esther's path all the way back to 1597 now. Geneaology rules!

So do we know if he's a long lost descendent of Mozart? Beethoven? Anyone?!

In all seriousness though, you should get to writing that book about Williams. ;)

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Update:

Amazingly, I found Esther's path all the way back to 1597 now. Geneaology rules!

So do we know if he's a long lost descendent of Mozart? Beethoven? Anyone?!

In all seriousness though, you should get to writing that book about Williams. ;)

Mozart lived from 1756-1791, and Beethoven from 1770-1827. The lineage suggests the couple of Ithiel Crosby Towner jr. (1769-1813) and Elizabeth Towner (born 1773) as John Williams' predecessors in that period. Of course, I don't know about Johnny sr's lineage.

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Trying desperately to move this back on-topic, there are some other interesting things that can be found from the records above.

* Esther lived to be almost a 100 years (a good sign for our own Johnny!)

* Esther was 23 years old when she gave birth to John

* When she herself was born in 1909, her father David was 50 years old and her mother Ada 46 years old. That's very late, as far the time period is concerned

* John's grandparents were probably pioneers of the "wild west". No wonder Williams did several great Western scores! Maybe his grandmother told him some stories from their past that ignited creative sparks. John was only 4 when David passed away, but Ada died in 1949, when John was 17.

* Both grandparents on Esther's side were born in Canada. While John served in the air force (1952-1955), he spent much of his time in Newfoundland in Canada -- where he also scored his very first movie -- YOU ARE WELCOME (1954).

In any case, you could piece together a whole story (semi-fictional) based purely on the few facts and dates and names you have. A story about Williams' young years (and before).

Still, none of this tells us what Esther did for a living or if she was involved in some form of creative enterprise that may have trickled down on to our own Johnny. That's the biggest mystery that I'd like to find an answer to.

Awesome research! This is great stuff! Thank you for this

I;m sure there's something even Miguel doesn;t know :)

I didn't even know Williams had a daughter until that interview in Boston a few years ago. Now you're telling me he had a mother?

His daughter is an MD I thought.

Update:

Amazingly, I found Esther's path all the way back to 1597 now. Geneaology rules!

So do we know if he's a long lost descendent of Mozart? Beethoven? Anyone?!

In all seriousness though, you should get to writing that book about Williams. ;)

It would be interesting to find out if he is indeed related to any known classical composer.

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This isn't John's mother or there is a mistake on the site. She has actually lived for almost a hundred years -  97, to be exact.  

Read it:  https://www.espn.com/blog/music/post/_/id/98/composer-john-williams-talks-fenway-red-sox

 

How is it you’re a Red Sox fan, considering you were born in New York and raised in California?

My mother was born in Boston and loved Fenway Park all of her life. She lived to be 97 and insisted that she lived that long because she wanted to see the Red Sox win the World Series again. Once they did it in 2004, she felt she could pass on very happily. For me, there is a strong family connection to Boston and anything connected to Boston, which includes Fenway.

 

On Wikipedia there is an interesting quote about his lineage. The source: Thomas, David (October 25, 1997). "The King of Popcorn". The Sydney Morning Herald: 10s.

 

 "My father was a Maine man—we were very close. ... My father's parents ran a department store in Bangor, Maine, and my mother's father was a cabinetmaker. [...] People with those roots , are not inclined to be lazy."

 

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Yes, as Pawel says, the death date at that site is incorrect. Perhaps they got it confused with John sr.'s death date.

 

Esther's dad David Towner (the cabinetmaker) emigrated from Quebec in Canada to Boston at the turn of the century. They already had 6 kids by then, and got 2 more after they arrived in Boston. Esther was their last; David was (astonishingly) in his mid 50s by then, and their mother Ada in her late 40s. This would be considered late in 2020; I can't even imagine how it must have been in 1909.

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Wait. Towner is a part of his surname, not his second name? My life is a lie :lol:

 

Interesting to think that Williams' grandfather was born 165 years ago and was a child during the U.S. Civil War. My grandfather was a child during World War II and it already feels like a completely different time (the sort of primitive house they lived in, etc.).

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37 minutes ago, Fabulin said:

Interesting to think that Williams' grandfather was born 165 years ago and was a child during the U.S. Civil War.

 

True, but he lived far away, in Quebec, Canada. I know that Canada was somewhat affected by the war -- they received both slaves and defectors that they had to deal with -- but mostly, they witnessed the US shenanigans from afar.

 

Williams' great-grandfather (who was also called David) had emigrated with his wife from the UK to Canada in the 1850s. But his ancestors again came from Canada, so that was an extra pull, in addition to the mass emigration that took place at the time. Also, David sr.'s wife Emilie was French, so Quebec was no doubt easier in terms of the language. I don't know what they did when they arrived in Canada, but I have this image of them being settlers and building their own house/cabin -- not necessarily in the city centre of Quebec-le-ville, but somewhere outside in this vast territory. After all, if David jr. was a cabinetmaker, carpentry must have come easy to the family.

 

David jr., however, was a single child. I guess he wanted to remedy that when he met his own wife, and over the course of three decades between the 1880s and 1900s got no less than 8  children, seven girls (of which Williams' mother was one) and one boy. Also, they must have had a yearning for the sea and the US, when they eventually decided to uproot and move to Boston around 1900. This was several years after the civil war, and things had calmed down in the US.

 

I'm not sure how many of you know that John Williams' full name is 'John David Towner Williams' (according to school records at St. Mary's Nativity School in New York), so the names of his grandfathers on his mother's side have been preserved in him.

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Can you imagine Esther was still alive to see her son complete the Star Wars saga (well, at the time...) and become the most oscar-nominated living person. She must have been proud.

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No doubt. And as I've said many times, let's hope Williams has inherited his mother's age genes and not his father's (seems to be the case, as he's now almost 10 years older than his dad was when he passed away).

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1 hour ago, Fabulin said:

Wait. Towner is a part of his surname, not his second name? My life is a lie :lol:

 

This.

 

Also interesting that he retained his mother's surname. Not necessarily all that common nowadays, and certainly much less so almost 90 years ago?

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1 hour ago, Luke Skywalker said:

The fool chose his mothers name as artistic name...to confuse us with the guitarrist!!!!

 

Actually, you're not that far off. Early on in his career, he used other versions of the name to delineate himself from another jazz pianist at the time called John Williams, and obviously his own father. His first credit on M SQUAD, for example, reads John T. Williams Jr. (of all things), and we all know his first studio album, where there's no "Williams" in sight!:

 

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