Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lyrical Lit: Songs with Literary References

Have you ever been excited to hear a reference to a book you love in a song?  Do you ever wonder if some songs have drawn inspiration from works of literature?  We're hear to tell you that there are plenty of artists out there combining love of reading with a talent for songwriting. Bruce Springsteen, Rosanne Cash, Panic! at the Disco, Radiohead, The Cure, David some point in their careers, all these artists have made their love of literature known.  We've taken it upon ourselves to put together a list of some songs with literary references which can be found in the library catalog, and thrown in some books with song references for good measure.

Some of the literary references are easily found in the lyrics:

The Lord of the Rings

 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, her, her....yeah. 

~Led Zeppelin, "Ramble On"

Listen to the music! Read the book!


I am the son
and the heir
of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and the heir
of nothing in particular

~The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"

Listen to music!  Read the book!
*The novel describes one of the minor characters as “the son of a Middlemarch manufacturer, and inevitable heir to nothing in particular.” [Shmoop]

Wuthering Heights

Bad dreams in the night.
They told me I was going to lose the fight,
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff, it's me--Cathy.
Come home. I'm so cold!
Let me in at your window.

~Kate Bush, "Wuthering Heights"

Listen to the music!  Read the book!

Songs of Experience

Take a journey to the bright midnight
End of the night, end of the night
Realms of bliss, realms of light
Some are born to sweet delight
Some are born to sweet delight
Some are born to the endless night 

~The Doors, "End of the Night"

Listen to the music!  Read the book!

Some of the references are not as easily found.  According to Mental Floss,  Devo's "Whip It" is "an imitation of Thomas Pynchon's parodies in his book Gravity's Rainbow" and Rolling Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil" drew inspiration from both Bulgakov's The Master and the Margarita and the works of Charles Baudelaire.

And the references work both ways!  Douglas Coupland has books called Girlfriend in a Coma [The Smiths] and Eleanor Rigby, Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box title is an homage to Nirvana, and Haruki Murakami wrote a book called Norwegian Wood.  Mystery writer Ian Rankin titled two of his Rebus mystery novels with references to the Rolling Stones' oeuvre: Let It Bleed and Black and Blue.


Songs With Literary References

24 Awesome Musical Shout-Outs to Literature

Ten Songs With Literary References

11 Songs Inspired by Literature

Wikipedia's List of songs that retell a work of literature

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