Last summer, I wrote a post about 12 songs inspired by literature. That post was so fun to write, I thought I’d continue the theme. Today, we have 10 more songs inspired by literature for you to enjoy!
10 Songs Inspired by Literature
Make your playlist literary today!
This is Home- Switchfoot
This song was written expressly for the Prince Caspian soundtrack. In an interview with Christianity Today, Jon Foreman told fans that he was trying to capture the feeling of reading the books for the first time.
“We wanted to find a place where the song could emote the feelings of a six-year-old kid reading the books as a bedtime story. There are a lot of themes in the book and movie, so the goal was to see the movie through the eyes of a child. The song sums up a lot of Lewis’ perception of pain, joy, beauty and eternal life-at least it’s our attempt to sum it all up and try to give a nod towards him,” he told the magazine.
The best line: I’ve been searching for a place of my own. Now I’ve found it, maybe this is home.”
Deadmau5 The Veldt
The Veldt is inspired by the Ray Bradbury story of the same name. The line “the world that the children made” is a reference to the story’s original title, which was “The World the Children Made.” In the story, a family lives in basically a Smart House, called “The Happylife Home.” There, the children become enthralled with a video game room that can mimic any environment. I won’t spoil the plot further, but it has a deliciously creepy feel like most of Bradbury’s stories and is a cautionary tale about too much dependence on technology (common in that era). The song is more or less a spark notes version of the story.
The best line: “We’ll never leave, look at us now. So in love with the way we are here!”
Aside: I know this band is supposed to be pronounced “dead mouse,” but I still think of it as dead mow 5 when I see it.
The Dreams of Children by The Jam
The Dreams of Children was inspired by the Clive Barker horror story called “The Forbidden.” In the story, The Candyman kills children so he can have the reputation that haunts the dreams of children. The song tries to come up with a reason why he might turn into such a terrible person- in that maybe, he’s jealous of their extreme optimism and wants to destroy it.
The best line: “I caught a glimpse from the dreams of children I got a feeling of optimism, but woke up to a grey and lonely picture. The streets below left me feeling dirty and I was alone, no one was there.”
Time to Dance – Panic at the Disco
Panic at the Disco is reported to be a fan of Chunk Palahniuk (author of Fight Club fame). Time to Dance pulls its subject material from his book Invisible Monsters. “Walls line the bullet holes” reference the shooting in the first part of the book, and “Give me envy, give me malice, give me your attention” is a direct quote from a book character who is instructing a model how to behave in the photo shoot. “Boys will be boys hiding in estrogen” could be a reference to a transvestite character in the book.
The best line: “She didn’t choose this role, but she’ll play it and make it sincere.”
A Skeleton in the Closet – Anthrax
A Skeleton in the Closet is based on the Stephen King story titled “Apt Pupil.” The song references the story in the line, “Apt pupil, he hears the screams.” The story follows the tale of a boy who meets a former Nazi and starts having dreams and nightmares about killing. The only way the boy can stop the nightmares is by killing people. It takes the police five hours to stop the killing. The story is referenced in the lines, “A loaded gun, a happy smile, he’ll scope the freeway for awhile King of the world, four hundred rounds it took five hours to bring him down” and “it’s insanity, puppetmaster boy or Nazi,” but the entire song is about the book.
The best line: “In too deep, their secret stands but it won’t keep.”
Backyard Skulls –Frightened Rabbit
According to an interview with the band in The Skinny Magazine, Backyard Skulls was inspired by the book “Where The Bodies Are Buried” from author Chris Brookmyre. Where the Bodies are Buried follows the story of two women who work on parallel sides of the law to uncover one of the most complicated crime mysteries in Scotland’s history (according to the book universe).
Band frontrunner Scott Hutchinson told the magazine, “I took this idea and threaded it into a song about unpleasant secrets in a more general sense. Infidelity, mistakes, wrong-doings. These things are never really gone, no matter how far down you bury them. They’re always lurking, even when you yourself are dead.”
The song references the book mainly in the line, “All our secrets are smothered in dirt, underneath paving stones, lying waiting to be told. Some stay hidden, whilst some get found.”
The best line: “Through patio doors, lies century upon century, of skulls untold, as hushed as suburban adultery. And below our homes, and underneath the lawns we keep, white silent skulls are smiling at the hypocrisy.”
Baobabs, Pound of Flesh, Opedius- Regina Spektor
Regina Spektor is the master of literary references, and sprinkles them throughout her songs. According to interviews, she doesn’t reference them intentionally; they just come out because she was such a prolific reader as a child and today. Three of her songs have heavy literary references: Baobabs, Pound of Flesh, and Opedius.
This song references The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The main character in this story lives on an asteroid and pulling out Baobab trees that grow there to prevent them from destroying the astroid. Regina references the song in the title, but also in the line “I feel them sprouting; they’ll grow right though if I don’t watch it.”
The Best Line: “And a sunset couldn’t save me now.”
Pound of Flesh
This song is a reference to the Shakespeare play The Merchant of Venice. In the story, lender Shylock agrees to lend the main character, Antonio, 3,000 ducats without interest, but if the loan is not repaid, then the payment will be a pound of flesh. Of course, the famous resolution to this story is that Antonio has a great lawyer who declares that Shylock can take the flesh, but not the blood. Regina references the play often throughout this song, particularly in the line, “What’s a pound of flesh between friends like me and you.”
The Best Line: “If you’re not forgiven then you can’t be forgotten.”
Opedius is a reference to Opedius Rex, the Sophocles play. This play was made famous because in the story, Opedius unknowingly marries his own mother and kills his father. Naturally, the story ends in suicide and Opedius blinds himself with dress pins. Other than the title, Regina references the play throughout the song, which is sung from the prospective of Opedius. “we remain quite strangers,” “I’m the king’s thirty second son,” and “And to touch me made her awful” all reference different parts of the story.
The best line: “Sometimes I’d stand by the royal wall, the sky’d be so big that it broke my soul.”
Booooom Blast and Ruin- Biffy Clyro
Boom Blast and Ruin is a quote from the book, Only Revolutions by Mark Z Danielewski. Only Revolutions is a stream of consciousness novel, much in the style of Fennigin’s Wake and House of Leaves (which Danielewski also wrote). The story is meant to be revolutionary, in the fact that the end of the book leads into the beginning. The book has two fronts- one side tells the story from the prospective of Sam and the other tells the story from the side of Hailey. The story isn’t so much a traditional novel as a literary experiment.
The song references the book in several lines, including “The truth is in motion” and “You used to be wrong, I used to be right.” The entire song is sort of cyclical, just like the book.
The best line: “You keep the secrets I know you’ll never spill.”
Although I’ve found clear links to 22 different songs inspired by literature, I know there are thousands! What are your favorite songs inspired by literature?