When George Lucas’ Star Wars hit America like a pop culture meteor in the summer of 1977, the R&B scene wasn’t immune from the impact. While Meco’s cheesy disco interpretation of John Williams’ score dominated the pop charts, disco-funk ensembles penned their own tributes to spaceships and light sabers. Kool & the Gang named an album after The Force, and Bunny Sigler’s Instant Funk crew described Darth Vader as a “tall black man” with the power to resist the traitorous rebels on the triumphant “Dark Vader.” Even Marvin Gaye’s “A Funky Space Reincarnation” gives a shout out to what was then the biggest-grossing movie of all time.
This was the era of Moonraker, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, and a fascination with intergalactic adventure, and this playlist is a groovy time capsule. (A 2017 Pitchfork article discussed similar territory.) Some like Parliament’s deathless Mothership Connection ethos predate Lucas’s space opera (and deserves a wider discussion than can be found here). Others like Rick James’ “Spacey Love” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Jupiter” simply reflect a Zeitgeist full of NASA flights, aliens and jugs of Tang. Whether you identify as a Jedi or a Sith, may the funky Force be with you.