Cause’ it’s summer again
I was thinking that it just might never begin
After winter and spring It’s good to have the sun on my face again….
(Thanks to the Wallflowers)
I was listening to the Bruce Springsteen song, The Ghost of Tom Joad, which is based on the character, Tom Joad, from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Thinking about it, I became curious about how much books have influenced books. I was amazed at what I found.
Jefferson Airplane hit it big with White Rabbit, which came from Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland.
Counting Crows Rain King is based on the story by Saul Bellows Henderson the Rain King
Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower came from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Surprised me!)
Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road came from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Toilken appears to have inspired many singers: Led Zeppelin were big fans of the books and referenced them in many of their songs, Battle of Evermore; Ramble On; Misty Mountain Hop; Over the Hills and Far Away; T.Rex rocked out to the plot of the Hobbit in Ride a White Swan
Tori Amos was inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn and sang …..Jamaica Inn.
Iron Maiden seemed to be avid readers: they sang about D-Day in The Longest Day, based on the Cornelius Ryan’s book of the same name; Frank Herbert Dune inspired them with To Tame a Land; When Two Worlds Collide takes Philip Gordon Wylie and Edwin Balmer story, When Worlds Collide, and make it a song.
David Bowie’s Oh! You Pretty Thing has lyrics from Ayn Rand’s Anthem.
Emmylou Harris and Dave Matthews sang a duet My Antonia about Willa Cather’s.... My Antonia
Regina Spektor refers to Oedipus Rex by Sophocles in her song, Oedipus: In Poor Little Rich Boy she refers to a short story of F. Scott Fitzgerald; she also takes from the Bible with Samson, about Samson and Delilah.
Mark Knopfler made a tune out of Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon and sang Sailing to Philadelphia.
Genesis based their song A Trick of the Tail on William Golding’s The Inheritors
The chorus of Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale was from Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale.
The Police sang Don’t Stand So Close to Me, with Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita in mind.
Fleetwood Mac touched on mythology with Rhriannon, a character in Triad
The Doors L.A. Woman was inspired by the City of Night by John Rechy
Metallica’s song, One, was based on the book by Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got his Gun; and their For Whom the Bells Toll was based on Hemingway’s book of the same name.
Green Day rocked out with Who Wrote Holden Caulfield? about Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
William Faulkner’s short story A Rose for Emily was turned into a song with the same title by the Zombies.
Pink Floyd based an entire album, Animals, on Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Jimmy Buffett sings about a character from Carl Hiaasen’s Tourist Season in the Ballad of Skip Wiley; then he retells part of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with Barefoot Children in the Rain.
Nirvana’s Beans gives us their interpretation of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums.
Suzanne Vega sang Calypso based on a scene from the Odyssey by Homer.
ABBA’s Cassandra is based on a character in the Iliad by Homer
Pink sang Catch-22 about Joseph Heller’s…. Catch-22.
Jimmy Eat World’s Goodbye Sky Harbor is about John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Steely Dan tells us about Ulysses encounter with the Sirens in Home at Last.
The Cure based their song, Bananafishbones, on J.D. Salinger book , A Perfect Day for Bananafish.
How Randy Newman could take the historical book, Guns, Germs and Steal and make a song was beyond me, but he did with The Great Nations of Europe.
Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is based on the story of David and Bathsheba with elements of Samson and Delilah tossed in.
The Beatles song I Am the Walrus takes lines from William Shakespeare’s King Lear. They were also inspired by Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, and came out with The Fool on the Hill.
The Doobie Brothers took the Ambrose Bierce story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and came out with the song I Cheat the Hangman.
Coldplay’s Clocks was inspired by Friedrich Schiller’s William Tell.
The Rolling Stones enjoyed Mikhail Bulgakov’s satire, The Master and the Margarita, they gave us Sympathy for the Devil.
Who can forget Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds? Originally done by Pete Seeger, it was taken from chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible…
Poetry inspired songs
The Cranberries Yeats Grave from the poetry of William Butler Yeats
Sheryl Crow sang about summer in All I Wanna Do is Have Some Fun, which came from a poem by Wyn Cooper.
Stevie Nicks rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Annabel Lee and rocks out with it.
Van Morrison took Yeats poem Crazy Jane on God and made a recording with it.
Rush sang Xanadu about Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan.
Memory from Cats was taken from a poem by T.S. Eliot.
Peter Gabriel Mercy Street was inspired by Anne Sexton’s 45 Mercy Street.
Simon and Garfunkel was inspired by Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem Richard Cory and made it into the song of the same title.
Crash Test Dummies thought the poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Elliot would be a great song and made it into Afternoons and Coffeespoons.
Even though Eric Clapton wrote Layla for Patti Boyd, it was based on the Persian poem Layla and Majnun….
These is a just a few of the many songs that have been influenced by literature. I had such a good time researching for this post...it was hard time choosing which to include. For those books listed that you’ve read, listen to the song and see if you agree…..
Books and music are two of my favorite things and it was great finding out how they complement each other.
Happy Summer and Happy Reading!