Literary Songs

Have you ever heard a song and thought that the story sounded familiar? Or read a book and a tune popped into your head? Many famous songs have been inspired by literature. Here are some great instances of books influencing music.

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Rush’s epic song “Tom Sawyer” is a modern retelling of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.
“Though his mind is not for rent / Don’t put him down as arrogant / His reserve a quiet defense / Riding out the day’s events / The river.”

Check out the album Moving Pictures by Rush.
Check out The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

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Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” (as well as a few other of their songs) references Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
“‘T was in the darkest depths of Mordor / I met a girl so fair / But Gollum, and the evil one / crept up and slipped away with her.”
Check out Led Zeppelin’s album II.
Check out The Lord of the Rings series by J.R. Tolkien.

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David Bowie dreamed of turning George Orwell’s 1984 into a musical, and has many songs which reference the classic novel.
“Beware the savage jaw / Of 1984.”
Check out David Bowie’s album Diamond Dogs here.
Check out 1984 by George Orwell here.

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Radiohead created the song “Exit Music (For a Film)” for Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of Romeo + Juliet, which portrays the Shakespearean tale in modern times.
“Wake / From your sleep / The drying of / Your tears / Today / We escape.”
Check out Radiohead’s album Ok Computer here.
Check out Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare here.
Check out Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet movie here.

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Bruce Springsteen took inspiration from John Steinbeck’s main character in The Grapes of Wrath for the song “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”
“And the highway is alive tonight / Nobody’s foolin’ nobody as to where it goes / I’m sitting down here in the campfire light / Searchin’ for the ghost of Tom Joad.”
Check out Bruce Springsteen’s album The Ghost of Tom Joad.
Check out The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

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Steely Dan’s “Home at Last” captures the essence of The Odyssey’s adventurer braving the seas for years in an attempt to get back to his home.
“Well the danger on the rocks is surely past / Still I remain tied to the mast / Could it be that I have found my home at last.”
Check out Steely Dan’s album Aja here.
Check out The Odyssey by Homer here.

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“The Resistance” by Muse is also inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
“Quell your prayers for love and peace / You’ll wake the thought police.”
Check out Muse’s album The Resistance.
Check out 1984 by George Orwell.

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Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic anthem “White Rabbit” uses imagery from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, both by Lewis Carroll.
“The white knight is talking backwards / And the red queen’s off with her head / Remember what the dormouse said / Feed your head.”
Check out Jefferson Airplane’s album Surrealistic Pillow.
Check out Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Check out Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

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After reading Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and spending an eerie night walking through New Orleans, Sting wrote “Moon Over Bourbon Street.”
“Now I can never show my face at noon / And you’ll only see me walking by the light of the moon.”
Check out Sting’s album The Dream of the Blue Turtles.
Check out Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.

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The famous song “Rocket Man” by Elton John was inspired by a short story of Ray Bradbury’s about an astronaut who spends most of his time in space and rarely gets to see his family.
“And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time / Till touchdown brings me ’round again to find / I’m not the man they think I am at home / Oh, no, no, no, I’m a rocket man.”
Check out Elton John’s album Honky Château.
Check out The Illustrated Man (short story collection) by Ray Bradbury.

February 1, 2017|Categories: Books & Audiobooks, Movies & Music|

About the Author:

Marti

Marti grew up in San Diego and went to college at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She loves books, music, and movies. She reads mostly fiction, including horror, fantasy, sci-fi and magical realism.