May marks the 38th anniversary of Star Wars opening in theaters and, upon immediate impact, conquering the entire universe. No aspect of existence has gone untouched by George Lucas’s empire (and rebels) and rock music ranks high among those elements profoundly caught up in all that derring-do going down a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
In honor of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Chewbacca, the droids, et al initially hitting our galaxy with such apocalyptic impact, here are 38 connections—one for each year of the phenomenon (thus far)—that link Star Wars to rock-and-roll, and vice versa.
May the Force rock your Banthas off.
1. In concert, Metallica occasionally covers Darth Vader’s theme, “The Imperial March. The band even performed it in 1999 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra during the live shows that became the 1999 album S&M (Symphony and Metallica). The song didn’t make the final cut, but a gnarly thirty-second snippet though has long existed as a leak online.
2. Upping the Metallica-Star Wars connection at Rock in Rio 2013, Kirk Hammett launched into a killer guitar solo that led to him playing the “Star Wars” opening theme, followed by a shredding take on “The Imperial March.”
3. Each Yuletide season, do you toss on the heart-warming toe-tapper, “R2D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas”? If so, have you ever wondered who’s leading the children’s choir on that catchy chorus? Well… probably not. Nonetheless, it is fun to know that that song appears on 1980’s Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album and that the vocalist in question is a young Jon Bon Jovi.
Christmas in the Stars is a holiday cash-in produced by Tony Bongiovi, who owned the legendary Power Station recording studio and also happened to be Jon’s cousin. Tony offered his up-and-coming rock singer relative some nifty exposure by inviting him to sing on the record, which hit bit and continues to sell to devotees. Tony also spared Jon the relative indignity of performing on “What Do You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Has a Comb)?”
4. Jefferson Starship rocks the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Although George Lucas has stated that he wished he could smash every existing copy of the notorious CBS-aired boondoggle if he had “the time and a hammer,” the Star Wars Holiday Special has long been a cult favorite. Jefferson Starship, deep into their metal-tinged arena rock phase, appear as laser-lit holograms and pump out the ass-kicking “Light the Sky on Fire.”
5. “Bicycle Race” by Queen includes the insistent lyric, “Jaws was never my thing/and I don’t like Star Wars!” Nonetheless, in concert, frontman Freddie Mercury was once famously hoisted atop the shoulders of Darth Vader and, at the particular moment, he seemed to like Star Wars just fine (even though Freddie was wearing a Flash Gordon t-shirt).
6. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers shout out Hollywood exports during their classic “Californication,” Star Wars gets a nod with the line, “And Alderaan’s not far away.”
7. Everclear’s Art Alexakis longs for times past in the group’s hit “Wonderful,” singing, “I want things that I had before/Like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door.”
8. No Doubt reinvents Darth Vader’s “Imperial March” as a ska-punk rave-up on their 1997 video, Live in the Tragic Kingdom.
9. “Weird” Al Yankovic scored a 1985 hit with “Yoda,” a tribute to the little, green Jedi master set to the tune of the Kinks’ “Lola.”
10. “The Saga Begins” by Weird Al Yankovic lyrically sets up Star Wars: The Phantom Menace to the tune of Don McLean’s 1971 classic, “American Pie.” On Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, Yankovic said that McLean told him that “American Pie” is the only song of his that his kids know, because they grew up singing along to “The Saga Begins.”
11. Among the VIPs invited to George Lucas’s Skywalker ranch in 1999 for a preview screening of The Phantom Menace were Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie. Ozzy and Zombie debated the Ewoks, with the Black Sabbath frontman taking the “pro” side and the House of 1000 Corpses Directors voicing the “con” perspective.
12. “The AC/DC Star Wars Remix” is a 2011 viral video that combines the Rock with the Force to generate spectacular results.
13. Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt has stated that most of his “religious beliefs” emanate from Star Wars.
14. When playing live, Green Day has been known to bust out a cover of “The Imperial March.”
15. The 1997 Blink 182 song “A New Hope” expresses gushes love for Princess Leia through lyrical declarations that include: “And even though I’m not as cool as Han/I still want to be your man/You’re exactly the kind of Alderranian that I need.”
16. In 2013 Rolling Stone’s ace Photoshop department visualized “Star Wars Recast With Rock Stars.”
17. Nerf Herder, a ’90s pop-punk outfit best known for creating the theme song for TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is named for an insult Princess Leia hurls at Han Solo. The band specialized in what they deemed “geek rock.”
18. Rise of the Fenix, a 2012 album by comedy metal duo Tenacious D, features the song “Deth Starr.”
19. Rap-rockers the Bloodhound Gang make numerous Star Wars references in their rhymes. Their biggest hit, “Fire Water Burn,” includes the simile, “Cause I’m kind of like Han Solo, always stroking my own Wookiee.”
20. Prog-metal adventurers Coheed and Cambria, in their nascent form under the name Shabütie, released “Goodnight,” a song that details the imaginary universe of a kid playing with his Star Wars toys. Sample lyric: “A Wookiee Chewbacca, Jabba, and all his friends love Boba Fett’s men representing the clone wars.”
21. Korn guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer named his groove-metal offshoot Droid.
22. Symphonic metal ensemble Epica covers “The Imperial March” on their album The Classical Conspiracy. It sounds, appropriately, epic.
23. Polish death-thrash metal marauders Vader takes their name from the Lord of the Sith.
24. Other extreme metal bands to snatch their monikers from Star Wars include blackened U.S. death-dealers Hoth, Hungarian thrashers Mos Eisley, and Finnish grindcore marauders The Pit of Sarlacc.
25. Aussie alt-metal provocateurs Salacious Crumb are named for the cackling creature who sits on Jabba the Hut’s shoulder. Their video for “The Ultimate Song” reimagines the Tatooine cantina as a karaoke bar.
26. Christopher Lee, the British horror film icon who portrayed Count Dooku in the Star Wars Episodes II and III, has recorded and released a series of symphonic heavy metal albums in recent years, beginning with 2010’s Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. Lee is presently 92.
27. The 2014 book Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever! features a succinct break down of Star Wars elements into heavy metal subgenres—e.g., “The opening crawl is symphonic metal. The Death Star is drone metal, The Jawas are doom metal. The Tusken Raiders are crust punk. The land speeder is 70s van rock. The Max Rebo band is groove metal. Han Solo is thrash. Han Solo shooting Greedo first is death metal.”
28. “Chewbacca” by Supernova is a highlight of the 1993 Clerks soundtrack.
29. “The Swish” by indie-rock stars the Hold Steady features the boast: “I did a couple favors / for some guys who looked like Tuscan Raiders.”
30. The musical childhood memory romp “Playdough” by costumed ska-punk heroes the Aquabats contains the lament: “But I lost my action figures/and it makes me want to scream/Greedo, Chewbacca, Luke, R2, and Han/3PO, Yoda, Boba Fett, Obi Wan!”
31. Minneapolis-based jam band WookieFoot specializes in psychedelic, reggae-tinged, sonic explorations for fans who, in large part, proudly and happily resemble the creature for which the group is named.
32. AeroSith is a comedy rock combo from Long Island, New York whose members perform in costume as Star Wars villains. They specialize in song parodies with Star Wars-themed lyrics.
33. Edgy Texas indie rockers Eisley consist of four siblings and a cousin who, even more than blood ties, share a love of Star Wars sufficient to name their band after Tatooine’s Mos Eisley space port.
34. There’s an official “Star Wars Rocks!” poster.
35. Numerous rock-themed Star Wars t-shirts exist, including one dandy that does up stormtrooper helmets with Kiss makeup.
36. The September 15, 1977 “Punk Rock Special” issue of Circus magazine boasted on its cover about including a free Star Wars poster—just above a head shot of Henry “The Fonz” Winkler.
37. A Punk Rock Tribute to Star Wars, released in 2012, features loud, fast, and hard musical homages by Shikshadle, Mynoc, Grace & Thieves, and System F—k.
38. In 2010, master skateboard designer Eduardo Lopez mixed up four classic rock songs with Star Wars characters to create a killer line of decks. They’re galactically gnarly!