There have been so many reasons why the Star Wars franchise has been so astronomically successful, and of course, one of the biggest elements is the John Williams theme song for the film, which without question has to be one of the top five (or maybe even three) most memorable songs ever included in a motion picture score. From the collective explosion of notes from the brass section of Williams’ well-oiled orchestra, to the beginning strains of the theme which fires the song cylinders in motion, to its sweeping, soaring bridge, right back to a coda that has the same intensity like the final proton torpedoes that shoot from Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing to destroy the Death Star back in that galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars Theme is melded and soldered in public consciousness.
So while John Williams’ rendition of the theme may be highly and instantly recognized and loved, it has also spawned a few versions by other artists that range from sincere to insane, credible to ridiculous, and funky hi-fi and low-fi. Covering a Star Wars tune, regardless of approach, seems to be a popular pastime that, especially in this viral, video, anyone-can-be-a-star-today age we live in, scores of people manifest with either wonderful or ridiculous results, sometimes all in the same song.
In honor of today being “May The Fourth,” a special Star Wars day of observance, here’s some of the best and worst covers of “The Theme From Star Wars” are listed here below. May the Force Be With Tune!
Star Wars 8 Bit – In the last few years, individuals taking classic songs and making 8 bit versions of them (reminiscent of some of the great Nintendo video game platforms of sound), has created a cyberspace popularity of them that has in essence created its own subgenre. This version of the theme song, which is performed in that manner, will almost have one thinking that they are about to play a game on the old NES, something that unfortunately never really came to fruition in real life. (In fact, during that time, most Star Wars home video games were pretty much lifeless and disappointingly worthless.)
Bill Murray Sings Theme to a Lego Millennium Falcon time lapse – As if Murray’s portrayal of the song wasn’t already bizarre enough, originally done during the third season of Saturday Night Live during the heyday of the first Star Wars, comes his portrayal with a visual of a Lego Millennium Falcon being built in nicely done time lapse. Hearing Murray’s ridiculously insane off the cuff lyrics (or so it seems) to Paul Shaffer’s piano noodlings never gets old.
Don Ellis and the Survival – From 1977 comes this rare nugget from one of the masters of American music. A quick cliff’s notes on Don Ellis: he was one of jazz music’s greatest showmen of all time, a master class trumpeter who had a dazzlingly original and proficient knack for creating, producing, writing, and conducting some of the most adventurous and complex jazz ever recorded, with time signatures that expertly transcended normal perfunctory ones. In his short life, he created a body of work (including scoring soundtracks like The French Connection 1 and 2 and The Seven Ups) that while remains criminally unknown, stands up with some of the greatest American music ever recorded in any genre at any time in music history. In 1977, he and his orchestra tackled the Star Wars theme, and they do it with such zeal and funky eclecticism, that one is almost able to forgive the inclusion of the voices briefly singing in the mix.
Meco – No list about the Star Wars theme could be complete without the inclusion of this song, which was a number one hit for two weeks in late 1977. This is more than just a novelty artifact in the Star Wars pop cultural universe, it’s also a relic of the late 1970s, intertwining the sudden fascination with the galaxies and beyond and disco music that were both completely washing over the American fabric circa 1977-1978. Meco, like Don Ellis above, sort of took the song and put it into a funky, danceable genre and it almost became (at the time) as memorable and popular as the film and theme that spawned it. It might be hard to conceive or realize if you weren’t of that generation, but to own this album then and to play it, gave an even more accessibility to the general public to the theme; most of them were not out buying the actual Star Wars soundtrack on vinyl records at the time, but for sure, scores were buying this single from Meco, whose real name is Domenico Monardo and who had worked in the disco field mainly as an arranger. In the wake of the platinum-selling success of the theme by Meco and his “sci-fi disco band,” other versions of well-known film theme songs were given the funky treatment, to less success. Soon after that abrupt nosedive, Meco, as a popular presence, faded from the public eye. But the popularity of his version of “The Theme From Star Wars” is a 1970s staple, even almost winning the Grammy Award, but ironically, losing to John Williams for the Star Wars soundtrack.
10 Hours of the Star Wars Theme – While it’s not a cover version, depending on one’s patience level, it’s either something that makes me say to the reader that (regarding its inclusion on this list), I’m sorry, or you’re welcome.
Remember, whether you liked these or not, the songs will be with us, always.