Like us, many song writers and musicians are inspired by books, and this sometimes shows in their work. Here are just a few examples of song which have in some way been inspired by literature. (Part one of the list, part 2 coming soon)

Bowie: 1984- As very obviously hinted at in the title of this song, Bowie’s song references George Orwell’s 1984, with lyrics including; “They’ll split your pretty cranium, and fill it full of air and tell that you’re eighty, but brother, you won’t care. Beware the savage jaw of 1984.” Other songs by Bowie including Big Brother also linked to Orwell’s work and it was rumoured Bowie wanted to write a musical version of the novel.

1984 cover

Led Zeppelin: Ramble On- In this song Zeppelin references Tolkien’s, Lord of the Rings, in lyrics that include the names of several of the series characters; “Mine’s a tale that can’t be told, my freedom I hold dear. How years ago in days of old, when magic filled the air.  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.”


Red Hot Chilli Peppers: Yertle the Turtle- Another song that clearly reference a book in the title, Red hot Chilli Peppers take their inspiration from Dr Suess’ book of the same name. “I’m Yertle The Turtle. The things I now rule. I’m king of a cow. I’m king of a mule”


Alt-J: Breezeblocks- Alt J’s lyrics “Do you know where the wild things go? They go along to take your honey, la la la” references Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

where the wild things are

The Police: Don’t Stand So Close to me- The Police mention Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov in the lyrics “Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov” as well as hinting at the books themes in the rest of the song.


Kate Bush: Wuthering Heights- Probably the most obvious of them all, Kate Bush wrote this song after watching an adaptation of the book by Emily Bronté.

wuthering heights

Pink: Catch-22- Pink takes the inspiration for this song from the book of the same name by Jospeh Heller

catch 22

Tori Amos: Jamaica Inn- Another obvious one, the song is based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier.

jamaica inn


One thought on “Songs that reference books- Part 1

  1. Pingback: Songs that reference books- Part 2 | Books Bird

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