Star Wars (Main Theme)

Album: Star Wars Soundtrack (1977)
Charted: 10

Songfacts®:

  • Hello again, Star Wars fans, and welcome to your moment of true fandom. As opposed to Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band," the other charting Star Wars song, aka "that disco travesty," this is the one, the true, the only original Star Wars theme.

    A triumph of a film theme to end all film themes, this song never loses its dignity no matter how many times you hear it. The opening trumpet fanfare jolts your theater seat, snapping your attention, before thundering off into the most powerful and triumphant march ever recorded.

    The opening score is actually, properly Luke Skywalker's theme. You see, John Williams, with Star Wars, revived the technique of the leitmotif, in which different characters have their own musical phrases inserted into the background music. For instance, fans are also familiar with and easily identify Darth Vader's theme, better known as "The Imperial March." Leitmotifs hail back to the operas of Wagner. Another popular piece of classical music which uses leitmotifs is "Peter and the Wolf," where characters get different instruments as well; Peter gets stringed instruments and the wolf gets French horns.

    How intricate is the leitmotif worked? Consider this minor leitmotif, "Here They Come!" which you hear throughout the series whenever there's a space battle. And in the middle of it, for just a couple of bars, Luke's theme! Then back to the main, ominous, jumpy battle theme. Doesn't it sound just like a fight, with each side struggling for the upper hand? Now another example, called variously "The Throne Room" or "Rebel Fanfare," recognizable at any point where the story has something to do with the rebel army, using The Force, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and so on.

    Now come back and listen for these leitmotifs in the main theme proper. Familiarize yourself with all of the individual leitmotifs for every major character and listen for them in the main theme. Yes, it's actually telling you the story with the music, before you've even seen the story! That's the power of leitmotifs. Imagine how startling it would be if you heard Luke's theme followed immediately by the Imperial March - you'd ask "What, is Luke joining the Empire?" Leitmotifs tell the story with music. They are wonderful to explore.
  • John Williams conducted this score with the London Symphony Orchestra, but his main orchestra was the Boston Pops Orchestra, with which he conducted other famous film themes. This theme won him a simultaneous Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Saturn, and Grammy award. Short of Saint Peter bodily flying down from heaven to crown you, there really isn't any higher honor a conductor can achieve.
  • The Star Wars theme is just as recognizable in the 21st century as it was during the original film's heyday in 1977, but why? Is it because the movie and its follow-ups have become such a ubiquitous part of pop culture that the music is impossible to forget? Musicologist David Penn thinks otherwise.

    The theme is actually crafted like a pop hit where there's a primary hook/payoff that grabs the listener and hangs on tight. The booming brass intro brings immediate excitement and continues into what would be the chorus in a pop song, the singable/hummable section. Melodic leaps bring "a strong sense of heroism," and the inclusion of strings during the bridge-like section adds a note of compassion that aligns us with the heroes in the battle between good and evil. Like the final chorus of a pop song, all of the elements come together at the end with increased energy and, in this case, segues into the visual story we were just told through music.

Comments: 1

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 3rd 1977, "Star War - Main Title" by the London Symphony Orchestra with John Williams entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and on September 11th, 1977 it peaked at #10 (for 1 week) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    The week it peaked at #10, Meco's "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band (Medley)" was at #13; and on September 25th Meco's version would peak at #1 for 2 weeks on the Top 100...
    John Williams won a Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Grammy for 'Best Original Movie Score'.
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