About ‘Star Wars,’ These 20 Songs Are
On May 25, 1977, an unheralded science-fiction epic named Star Wars opened in less than three dozen theaters across the United States. From this modest beginning sprung the most popular franchise in film history, one that is somehow still growing larger decades later.
The influence of this unparalleled worldwide phenomenon has seeped into all aspects of our culture, including the world of popular music. Below are 20 examples of musicians from a wide variety of genres including Star Wars references in their lyrics, song titles and videos.
The Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys included a shout-out to sci-fi’s most famous father-son duo on 1994’s Ill Communication: “Like gravy on potatoes, Luke to Darth Vader / I’m a souped-up sucker and I’ll see you all later.” More than 20 years later, J.J. Abrams returned the favor by naming a Star Wars: The Force Awakens character Ello Asty in honor of the group’s 1989 album Hello Nasty.
Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age are no strangers to galaxies of the past. Their The Split CD features the instrumental track “These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For,” a title drawn from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s use of a Jedi mind trick against the Stormtroopers in Episode IV. But it may be hard to nab a copy, as the 1998 album is rare and currently out of print.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Who knows what the Red Hot Chili Peppers had been smoking, but according to their 1999 album, “Alderon’s not far away, it’s Californication.” They may have misspelled Alderaan, which first appeared in A New Hope, but it seems they are fans of Star Wars – and all things intergalactic. The song also asserts that “space may be the final frontier but it’s made in a Hollywood basement,” an obvious Star Trek reference.
You can tell our environment weighs heavily on Tenacious D, whose 2012 album Rize of the Fenix addresses the “Deth Starr” we must build. They pull no punches, warning “Deth Starr is a son of a b—-, y’all / Gonna take us into outer space / Get your s— together motherf—er / We’re gonna start a new human race in the sky / In the sky!”
The Mountain Goats
On Goths, the Mountain Goats are not fooling around. The hilariously named song “The Ultimate Jedi Who Wastes All the Other Jedis and Eats Their Bones,” is now considered “canon” by Rian Johnson, the director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. “John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats recorded this, and I’m suddenly regretting that I didn’t ask him for his story ideas earlier,” Johnson said.
In a scene for her “Die Another Die” video, which she made for the James Bond film of the same name, Madonna pays homage to the duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The scene shows two Madonnas, one clad in white, the other in black, sword-fighting until the white Madonna is pushed through a window.
It seems the Gorillaz are big Star Wars fans, referencing the Empire in not one, but two songs on G Sides, a B-sides collection from their self-titled debut album that was released in Japan in 2001. In “The Sounder,” they sing, “It’s like that when we write raps, we’re not from the Empire but we will strike back!” On “Clint Eastwood,” they go so far as to reference characters: “Take the ground from beneath your feet, leave you Skywalkin’ like Anakin.”
Kanye West has never been one to give up. So it shouldn’t surprise that he’s repeatedly crammed Star Wars references into his songs. Among them are “Gone” from 2005’s Late Registration where he says, “and if I ever switch sides like Anakin / You’ll sell everything including the mannequin” on GLC’s “Big Screen” on which he’s featured, where he reports “I’m back in your life / Return of the Jedi / L.A. for a night then return on the Red Eye”; and on “Guilt Trip” from 2013’s Yeezus, where he’s “wearin’ Star Wars fur, yeah, I’m rockin’ Chewbacca.”
In 2006, Gnarls Barkley played their hit single “Crazy” at the MTV Music Awards — in Star Wars costumes. CeeLo Green, while the Stormtroopers turn out to be pretty good guitar players and Imperial Officers were surprising violinists. Danger Mouse showed his piano shops as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Chewbacca held it down on drums.
In “Bicycle Race” off of 1978’s Jazz, Freddie Mercury sings “You say shark, I say, hey, man! ‘Jaws’ was never my scene and I don’t like ‘Star Wars’,” but fear not: Brian May reports that the song, written by Mercury, was not autobiographical, and Mercury was not an avid cyclist and, in fact, was a Star Wars fan.
The Hold Steady
When Craig Finn closes out the song “The Swish” from the Hold Steady‘s 2004 album Almost Killed Me, he sings, “Swishing through the city center / I did a couple favors for some guys who looked like Tusken Raiders, you can be sure he’s not paying them a compliment. Tusken Raiders are the nomadic inhabitants of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet. They are not known for their good looks.
With a title like Blue Sky on Mars it makes sense that there would be some interplanetary references. On the 1997 song, “Where You Get Your Love,” Matthew Sweet sings, “You’re getting your kicks right at the sources, you’re taking your guidance from the Force.”
Unsurprisingly, the band that named themselves after an insult Princess Leia laid on Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back included a song named “I’m the Droid (You’re Looking For) on their 2016 album Rockingham.
Speaking of scruffy-looking: White Zombie‘s 1989 pre-fame opus Make Them Die Slowly features a very Vader-ish threat on the track “Murderworld”: “Death Star reaches out to crush you, idealistic super-hero.”
A Tribe Called Quest w/ Busta Rhymes
Q-Tip and company drop wisdom they learned a long time ago in a galaxy far away on this track from 1997’s Rhyme & Reason soundtrack: “No, ’cause he move like the wind, in flight / Counter-attack like a Jedi Knight.”
“Weird Al” Yankovic
Star Wars Fans Wikia lists four different songs from music’s long-running king of comedic parodies. Our favorite, obviously, tells the story of the diminutive green Jedi master from Dagobah, set to the tune of the Kinks‘ “Lola.” Best line? “I know Darth Vader’s really got you annoyed / But remember, if you kill him, you’ll be unemployed.”
Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey regularly plays snippets from John Williams’ Star Wars soundtrack during his concert solos. Check out his take on the movie’s famous main title here.
Blink-182 visit the moons of Endor, the Mos Eisley cantina and the deserts of Tatooine in an apparent effort to win the affections of Princess Leia in the Star Wars-themed song “A New Hope” on their Dude Ranch album.
Eminem‘s lyrics are frequently peppered with Star Wars references, never more so clearly than on this Relapse track, where he threatens to “Jump out on you like I was a Jawa from f—ing Star Wars / Jabba the Hutt Betty-ba-ba Betty-ba-ba.”
Seriously, how else were were supposed to end this list?