The influence of Star Wars reaches far and wide, inspiring films, books, toys, games, and pretty much every other form of popular culture. But it’s not just the iconic sci-fi imagery that’s inspired a generation — the film’s majestic music has also made its mark on countless movie soundtracks and scores that followed in its footsteps. And of course, generations of music makers who have paid tribute to the space opera and its sequels.
Before Star Wars, sci-fi flicks generally featured electronic scores comprised of a cacophony of beeps and bleeps. Or pre-existing classical music, with the music of Strauss famously underpinning Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
But George Lucas wanted something different — a sweeping symphonic score filled with romance and drama. So he employed John Williams, who had recently won an Oscar for his work on a little film called Jaws. And Williams delivered, crafting one of the most memorable scores in film history.
His work has had an unescapable influence on blockbuster movies ever since. With Williams crafting similarly bombastic themes for Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T.. and the likes of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Pirates of the Caribbean films taking a similarly orchestrated approach.
Star Wars was big in the late 1970s. As was disco. And so they became natural bedfellows, with the movie inspiring disco acts, dances and songs. Meco had a smash with their album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk in 1977. Real Thing had a hit with Can You Feel the Force? a year later. While in 1979, Instant Funk released a funky number of their own in the shape of Dark Vader.
For something a little jazzier, you could check out In a Galaxy Far Away by Third Stream. While I Fell in Love With a Starship Trooper by Sarah Brightman is a good deal sillier, with the singer being banished to Mars by Darth Vader.
Then there’s (Do You Have) The Force, also inspired by the movie, and made by a band who called themselves The Droids. Speaking of which…
The Droids aren’t the only band who named themselves after a Star Wars character, place or plot point. There’s an indie group called Nerf Herder. A death metal outfit named Vader. A hip-hop collective called Jedi Mind Tricks. And a rock band who go by the name Eisley.
Aerosmith make their money writing songs about the movies. Army of Kashyyk are named after badass Wookies. While Hoth take their name from the ice planet in Empire Strikes Back.
Homage and Reference
Some of the biggest music artists of the last 40 years have mentioned or paid homage to Star Wars in their music. Hip-hop stars Missy Elliott, The Fugees, Wu-Tang Clan, Ludacris, Kanye West, Notorious B.I.G., Outkast, Will Smith, and A Tribe Called Quest have all referenced the films, while Eminem is a serial offender, even doing an impression of Yoda on the track Buffalo Bill.
If rock floats your boat, Queen, The Hold Steady, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Everclear, Good Charlotte and Tenacious D have all mentioned the sci-fi flick in their work. While Robbie Williams and the Jonas Brothers have done their bit for Star Wars pop.
Though Gnarls Barkley hasn’t actually sung about Star Wars, the duo did memorably dress up as characters from the movies for the 2006 MTV Movie Awards, with Cee Lo doing Darth Vader and Danger Mouse becoming Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Star Wars has been parodied ever since it hit screens. And the king of funny songs — Weird Al Yankovich — has had a couple of stabs at sending up the movies. Yoda takes The Kinks’ Lola and makes it about Luke Skywalker’s diminutive mentor. While The Saga Begins focusses on Episode 1 via Don McLean’s American Pie.
But maybe the greatest — and certainly the most ambitious — musical parody of Star Wars is Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans. Which tells the story of Episodes IV, V and VI using The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And just about succeeds.