Friday, October 30, 2015

Does Darth Vader's Theme Have Its Roots in the 1930s Dance Band Era?

Vader artwork by Terry Fan for Monde Mosaic
When the official trailer for Star Wars: the Force Awakens was released a few weeks ago, I thought I heard a collective orgasm from Star Wars geeks ripple through the universe (a great disturbance in the force, indeed!) While everyone is waiting for the movie's release date of December 18 to get here, I thought this might be a good opportunity to point out a huge similarity I've heard between "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)" and two other songs -- one of them from 1932!

It all started when I first heard the 1997 song "Your Woman" by White Town being played on my local independent radio station a few years ago. "Hey, that sounds just like Darth Vader's theme!" I'd think to myself when I heard the repeated trumpet melody...and every time the song aired in my car on the way to work or home, it would just reconfirm my opinion. I thought it was cool that someone gained copyright permission to sample John Williams' composition, until I did more research into "Your Woman."

It turns out that White Town was inspired -- not by the Dark Side -- but by a 1932 song by Al Bowlly called "My Woman." Bowlly was a South African/British singer, songwriter, composer and band leader whose career lasted from 1927 until his untimely and tragic death in 1941. He recorded over 1,000 records including the classic love song "The Very Thought of You" as well as "Midnight, the Stars and You" and "Goodnight, Sweetheart." 

"My Woman" was actually credited to Lew Stone and the Monseigneur Band featuring Al Bowlly. It may have been heavily inspired by Bowlly's heartache at the time -- in 1931 he married a woman named Freda Roberts only to later find his new bride in bed with another man on their honeymoon night (he remarried in 1934 and that marriage lasted until his death.)

The comments on YouTube for "My Woman" are priceless..one guy said Darth Vader dons his top hat and cape and goes out on the town to this tune...another said his woman left him so he turned to the Dark Side. Some people thought it sounded nothing like "The Imperial March"...I disagree. In my opinion, there's a huge, almost bizarre similarity here that seems too obvious to be ignored. The question remains...did Williams plagiarize Bowlly? 

Anyways, here's Bowlly's "My Woman" followed by White Town's "Your Woman" followed by "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)". You can be the judge. 







By the way, I've found my Halloween costume idea for next year. Why haven't I thought of getting dressed up as a sexy, female Darth Vader before? (She's missing her cape and lightsaber, though.)


2 comments:

  1. Love it love it love it. I keep promoting you as the world's greatest nostalgia blogger on my FB page...

    Clif Martin

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  2. Great post. I never knew that they "borrowed" Darth Vader's theme from another song. I'll have to ask my Star Wars friends about it. Well I'll ask them when they recover from their "collective orgasm" (great dig by the way.) One comment about the female Darth Vader outfit - of course it comes without a light saber (sorry, I couldn't resist.)

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