Tommy's legendary solo on "What The World Needs Now"
by Jackie DeShannon

Tommy Johnson - What The World Needs Now.mp3


John Thomas Johnson (January 7, 1935 - October 16, 2006) was an American orchestral tuba player. He performed on more than 2,000 film soundtracks, most notably John Williams' Jaws score, in which he played a high-register tuba solo as the melodic theme for the shark. He was born in Los Angeles, California to a tailor and his wife. Johnson had a musical upbringing as his father was a baritone soloist in the choir at the Angelus Temple in Echo Park.

He attended the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, studying under Robert Marsteller. He received a bachelor's degree in music in 1956. He played on his first film in 1958, the score for Al Capone. He went on to become Hollywood's "first-call" tuba player, playing for television commercials and TV series, such as The Flintstones. In addition to Jaws, his films included, The Godfather, the Indiana Jones series, the Star Trek film series, The Lion King, Titanic, The Thin Red Line (1998 remake), The Matrix, Cats & Dogs, Forrest Gump, Air Force One, Back to the Future, A Bug's Life and Lethal Weapon.

The Jaws solo was written in an extremely high range for the tuba. In a 2004 interview with, Johnson remembered being late to the recording session and opened his music to find the tuba solo. It wasn't until later that he found out it was the theme for the shark. Johnson said he asked composer John Williams why he didn't write the solo for the French horn, an instrument better suited for the register. Williams' response was, "Well, I wanted something that was in that register but I wanted it to sound a little more threatening.

Upon Johnson's death, Williams praised him as "one of the great instrumentalists of his generation. Not only was he the voice of the shark in Jaws, his performance across the full range of the repertoire inspired not only me, but a whole generation of young tubists."

In addition to his work on film soundtracks, Johnson played on recording sessions for many albums by such artists as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. "Weird Al" Yankovic said Johnson was his "go-to guy" whenever he needed a tubist for his polka medleys. Johnson performed the tuba solo on Yankovic's Nirvana parody, "Smells Like Nirvana". His other recordings include The Manhattan Transfer Meets Tubby the Tuba, Partita for Brass Quintet and Tape and Jean-Pierre Rampal Plays Scott Joplin.

Johnson performed as tuba soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony, the San Fernando Valley Symphony, the L.A. Pops Orchestra, the Henry Mancini Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Academy Awards Orchestra, the USC Wind Ensemble and the Los Angeles Tuba Quartet.

He taught junior high school music in the Los Angeles Unified School District for nearly 20 years, but for most of his career, he taught advanced tuba players in private lessons and at USC and UCLA. Among his students were Norm Pearson, principal tubist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Alan Baer, principal tubist of the New York Philharmonic, Gene Pokorny, principal tubist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Wesley Jacobs, principal tubist (Ret.) of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, John Van Houten and Jim Self, a jazz tubist and studio musician who worked on many sessions with Johnson. Noted tubist Roger Bobo also studied under Marsteller in the 1950s, and he and Johnson became close friends and friendly competitors, playing many concerts and recording sessions together.


Selected Soundtracks

2008     Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo [Original Score for the Animated Feature]      Tuba
2006     Flags Of Our Fathers [Soundtrack]     Clint Eastwood     Tuba
2006     X2: X-Men United [Original Motion Picture Score]     John Ottman     Tuba
2005     The Island [Soundtrack]     Steve Jablonsky     Tuba
2005     Fantastic 4 [Original Motion Picture Score]     John Ottman     Tuba
2005     Meet the Fockers [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Randy Newman     Principal Tuba
2004     Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events    Tuba
2004     The Day After Tomorrow     Harald Kloser     Tuba
2004     National Treasure (Original Score)     Trevor Rabin     Tuba
2004     Spider-Man 2 [Original Motion Picture Score]         Tuba
2003     Bulletproof Monk [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Eric Serra     Tuba
2003     Gothika [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     John Ottman     Principal Tuba
2003     Identity [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Alan Silvestri     Tuba
2003     Jeepers Creepers 2 [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]         Tuba
2003     Scary Movie 3         Tuba
2003     Tears of the Sun [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Hans Zimmer     Tuba
2003     The Hunted [Music from the Motion Picture]     Brian Tyler     Tuba
2003     The Last Samurai [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Hans Zimmer     Tuba
2002     Antwone Fisher     Mychael Danna     Tuba
2002     Tuck Everlasting     William Ross     Tuba
2002     Blade II     Marco Beltrami     Tuba
2002     Eight Legged Freaks [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     John Ottman     Tuba
2002     Far From Heaven [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Elmer Bernstein     Tuba
2002     Panic Room [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Howard Shore     Tuba
2002     Signs [Original Motion Picture Score]     James Newton Howard     Tuba
2002     Sin City: The Very Best of the Flying Burrito Brothers     The Flying Burrito Brothers     Tuba
2002     Star Trek: Nemesis [Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Tuba
2001     Along Came a Spider     Jerry Goldsmith     Tuba
2001     Black Knight [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Randy Edelman     Tuba
2001     Domestic Disturbance [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Mark Mancina     Tuba
2001     The Glass House [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Christopher Young     Tuba
1999     Tarzan [Original Soundtrack]     Phil Collins     Tuba
1996     101 Dalmations (Live Action)     Michael Kamen     Tuba
1987     Harry and the Hendersons [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]     Bruce Broughton     Tuba
1985     The Color Purple [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]         Tuba


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