Producer and studio musician Meco marked a confluence of the two dominant pop-culture preoccupations of the late '70s, shooting to fame on the heels of a chart-topping disco rendition of the theme to Star Wars. Born Meco Monardo in Johnsonburg, PA in 1939, he took up the trombone at the age of nine, and later earned a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. There Meco formed a jazz trio with fellow students Chuck Mangione and Ron Carter, later enlisting with the West Point Army Band. From 1965 to 1974, Meco worked as a studio player, and also landed a number of arranging gigs, most notably on Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion." He additionally arranged and performed the music on a series of television commercials.
Meco's breakthrough arrived in 1974 when he co-produced the Gloria Gaynor smash "Never Can Say Goodbye," followed by the Carol Douglas masterpiece "Doctor's Orders." In 1977, Meco saw the George Lucas film Star Wars on the day of its release and quickly became obsessed, seeing the picture numerous times; while admiring producer John Williams' score, he felt the music lacked commercial possibilities, and soon contacted Casablanca Records chief Neil Bogart about the possibility of a disco version. Working with veteran Broadway arranger Harold Wheeler, Meco recorded Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk; soon the first single, "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band," rose to number one. Although he recorded similar music inspired by films including The Wizard of Oz and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Meco remained most closely associated with Star Wars, even recording a highly successful Christmas album based on the movie; he retired from music in 1985, later working as a commodities broker in Florida. ~ Jason Ankeny
BORNNovember 29, 1939