This is going to be very short, because I don’t really like the whole “May the Fourth be with you” thing, and really I only used that title to get you to click so you could see this.
In May of 1977, Star Wars was released. It has since become known as A New Hope, and it’s the second-best of the original trilogy (Empire is clearly first, with Jedi being a distant third). But then in November of 1977, something else funny happened:
Tom T. Hall released this song, titled “May the Force Be with You Always.”
Now, just the other day the venerable Dr. Digits published a praise of Tom T. Hall’s Homecoming album, which was great and an unintentional bit of good creative timing. But instead of discussing the ins and outs of karma and cosmic timing, I’ll just suffice to say that Tom T. Hall is worth listening to, and that he’s a relatively underrated and misunderstood artist.
Now, the lyrics of Tom T. Hall’s “May the Force Be with You Always” have nothing to do with Star Wars. Not once does he mourn the destruction of Alderaan or offer an opinion of who shot first in the Mos Eisley cantina.
And in fact, Tom T. Hall’s song seems to be a heartfelt love song that had nothing at all to do with intergalactic warfare. At least one news outlet, the Tennessean, asserts that the title was inspired by Star Wars, but I could not find any evidence confirming that. Of course, Tom T. Hall, clever wordsmith that he was, almost certainly knew of Star Wars and possibly figured it would be funny to borrow the line. I mean, there couldn’t have possibly be that much crossover between Tom T. Hall fans and people who loved the original Star Wars, right? How many pairs of nuthuggers and ropers could possibly have been seen in the Star Wars ticket line? And how many Chewbacca cosplayers were listening to “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” while brushing the fur of their suit? Probably none.
But that’s what Tom T. Hall was good at. He was great at bringing together worlds that were not usually seen. His biggest songwriting hit, “Harper Valley PTA,” was a crossover hit that saw the unassuming Jeannie C. Riley become the first woman to have a song appear on both the country music charts and the Billboard Hot 100. Perhaps that was Tom T. Hall’s way of trying to bridge the auditory gap between country fans and pop fans.
Regardless of the motivation, and regardless of the intention, “May the Force Be with You Always” is a heartfelt song with a typically Tom T. Hall-esque tongue-in-cheek appropriation of pop culture. So whatever May 4th brings, I hope it brings you a little cheer and a little burst of being the force of good to combat that of evil. If you’re struggling with good versus evil, just do what I do: find your nearest large appliance and say, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”