Former WWF/WWE composer, Jim Johnston has given his insight on arguably his most famous composition – The Undertaker’s entrance theme which he compares to the music of Star Wars.
After leaving the company in 2017 to allow World Wrestling Entertainment to move on to more up-to- date artists, Johnston also left behind him a legacy of unforgettable music.
The likes of ‘Sexy Boy’ which he collaborated on for Shawn Michaels, ‘Real American’ which sang Hulk Hogan to the ring for the majority of his WWF career and of course the creation which has endured three decades, ‘The Funeral March.’
In an interview with Kiwi Talkz, the maestro talked about creating the somber yet foreboding tune for The Undertaker all the way back in 1990, as well as it’s many variations throughout the years:
“Undertaker is simple but there’s also a complexity to it as well. It isn’t like it’s really, complex cord changes; it’s just simple in E minor. It’s a nursery rhyme, really, in how I wrote it because it’s the only thing I could figure out it sounded like… I was gonna say that it’s the only thing that sounds like death, but it doesn’t really sound like death. To me, it sounds more like sorrow, and I always found that was an interesting part of how I saw Undertaker’s character. We don’t know what happened to this guy or how he got here, but it probably was not all good. There was probably some sad stuff that happened to him.”
Some themes just suit a wrestler in the way they walk, portray themselves of compete between the ropes. While Bret Hart’s cutting intro matched how he would Buzzsaw through his foes using technical foes using technical mastery, The Undertaker’s fit his slow walk and ashen faced persona.
However, in order to get it right, Johnson drew on the score of arguably the most popular movie franchise of all time, Star Wars:
“I think there is a really strong parallel with the Star Wars theme. There’s an incredibly fine line in that kind of stuff between, ‘Boy, does this work! This is great!’ And, ‘This is absolutely laughable!’ It’s like, ‘We’re supposed to believe this guy is dead because he wears a long, black, leather jacket? How stupid do you think we are?’ I think about it in the same light as Darth Vader. It completely works yet the guy in the suit is not even Darth Vader. It’s a different voice and a different guy.”
Jim Johnston left a hole that will never be filled when he departed WWE in 2017, but also a history of tunes that will forever remain favourites for devotees of his era. Johnston’s work can be found on countless albums as well on streaming sites such as Spotify.
Credit for the interview: Kiwi Talkz
h/t for the transcription: Wrestling Inc.