Monday, February 20, 2017

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Famous Music Inspired by Books

Famous Music Inspired by Books

Tao Te Ching

In the song “The Inner Light” by the Beatles, George Harrison was inspired by the writings of Lao Tzu and took the lines “Without going out of my door, I can know the ways of Heaven” and wrote the song. The song includes sounds and lyrics inspired by the far east.


The song “The Small Print” by Muse takes the point of view of the devil from Goethe’s Faust. The original title of the song was “Action Faust,” and in the song, the Devil is referred to as “the priest God never paid.” We listen to the tale of the exchange for a soul manipulated by the Devil.

The Lord of the Rings

Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” is one of my absolute favorite songs, with direct references to the book throughout the song. The band has a few Tolkien references, but this song even includes the lines, “t’was in the darkest depths of Mordor” and “But Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her.” An amazing band with a love for an amazing author!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

In the song “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, the references to the book are clear. The song includes the “hookah smoking caterpillar” and the red queen who’s “off with her head.” Lead singer Grace Slick says the song is about her observation that parents tell their children not to take psychedelic drugs, yet read them stories obviously influenced by drugs. Remember the dormouse that says “Feed your head.”


David Bowie had planned to write a musical in the 70’s based off 1984 by George Orwell, but Orwell’s wife did not want that. But he did wind up writing a few songs inspired by the book, but the one influenced by the book most was the song with the same title. It’s believed the lyrics represent the main character of the book, Winston Smith, being questioned by the antagonist, O’Brien.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

The song by Radiohead called “Banana Co.” is about the book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and discusses the unfair treatment of the people and land in the town of Macondo by a banana plantation. The revolt by the workers is directly reflected in the lines “Everything’s burning down, We got to put it out somehow.”

The Grapes of Wrath

Bruce Springsteen’s song “The Ghost of Tom Joad” is a modern-day look at the novel by John Steinbeck, talking about the sorrows of Americans down on their luck. The song even includes some paraphrased lines from a famous speech made by Tom Joad, “Where there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air, Look for me mom I’ll be there.”


The book, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Suskind talks about a man born without odor, and his endeavor to find the perfect scent by murdering and preserving the scents of numerous women. This story has influenced heaps and heaps of songs, but the most famous one is “Scentless Apprentice” by Nirvana. A line is directly referencing the book and the main character, Grenouille says “His smell smelled like no other.”

If you love music as much as I personally do, you’ll be just as excited to give a try to these books! I’m always interested in what gets people inspired, and with these books, you can see what has appealed to some of our best musicians!

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