‘Star Wars’ has changed a lot since it premiered in 1977, and I’m not just talking about the often bizarre tweaks George Lucas made across the film’s countless rereleases. But amid all that change, there has been one constant: John Williams. The legendary composer whose scores have, as Time Magazine once put it, “propel[led] ‘Star Wars’ into hyperspace.”

But all great things must eventually come to an end, and much as ‘Star Wars’ itself is supposedly preparing to close the book on the Skywalker saga (if only for the time being), so too is Williams on the verge of scaling back his involvement with the franchise. Speaking to KUSC, Williams naturally made mention of his long association with ‘Star Wars’, and seemed to suggest that he would be leaving it behind following the completion of his work on ‘Episode IX’:

“We know J.J. Abrams is preparing for [‘Star Wars: Episode IX’] now, that I will hopefully do next year for him. I look forward to it. It will round out a series of nine [films]. That will be quite enough for me. Disney Studios will take it further. As you know, Disney has acquired the rights for Lucasfilm, and they will probably continue on through… decades, possibly, doing ‘Star Wars’-related attractions.”

While this is sad news in some respects – Williams’ scores, after all, are as much a part of ‘Star Wars’ as, well, stars and wars – it’s also a bit surprising that this it didn’t come sooner. Not to put too fine a point on it, but by the time ‘Episode IX’ arrives in theaters next year, Williams will be eighty-seven. The fact that he’s only talking about retiring from ‘Star Wars’ rather than from composing more generally is itself remarkable, and frankly, you can hardly blame the man for wanting the freedom to take on other projects, particularly given the  pace at which Disney seems determined to pump out ‘Star Wars’ movies for the foreseeable future. And if he’s going to step away from the franchise, the conclusion of this latest trilogy is as logical a time as any to do so – particularly if it does, in fact, bring the Skywalker story to a close.

And as iconic as Williams’ scores are, it’s not as if there’s a lack of precedent for other composers writing ‘Star Wars’ music. Even setting aside decades of video game scores, the annual release schedule Disney has established since buying Lucasfilm means that there are (or soon will be) two ‘Star Wars’ movies that Williams hasn’t scored. Those, of course, are the anthology films, ‘Rogue One‘ (scored by Michael Giacchino) and ‘Solo‘ (which features a score by John Powell, though Williams has contributed the main theme), which will hit theaters this May.

Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on this and other upcoming ‘Star Wars’ films as it becomes available!

‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ will arrive in theaters on December 20, 2019.