Books and lyrics

Driving in to work today, I was listening to Spotify and thinking about books.  I’m currently obsessed with the song “Ugly Heart” by G.R.L. and I was thinking it could be the basis for an angstsy teen novel.  One thing leads to another in my often labyrinthine thought process and I soon found myself trying to list in my head songs I love that are based on books, poems, or other literary works.

Some obvious ones came to mind—“Calypso” by Suzanne Vega, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits, “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush, “Moon over Bourbon Street” by Sting.  All of these have been longtime favorites because of the dimension they add to the fictional works they, well, ripped off.  (Isn’t all creation  stealing, really?  Or at least borrowing heavily?)


As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I love the marriage of music and literature and I often find myself making musical pairings in my mind: Paolo Nutini riffing on The Fault in Our Stars?  Fun. taking a crack at Atonement?  Adele reinterpreting Bel Canto?  Jay-Z channeling Tennyson?  You get my drift.

What is your favorite song based on a book?   And what book would you like to see become a hit song?

7 Responses to Books and lyrics

  1. Kate says:

    For Whom the Bell Tolls/Metallica

    Eminem channeling The Giver.

  2. When I first read this post, I thought it would be easy to come up with other songs, just by scrolling through the stiff I’ve got on my phone. Wrong! All I came up with is “The Red Shoes” by Kate Bush and “Ghost of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen. I don’t think “1984” by David Bowie really counts.

  3. “stuff,” not “stiff.” Gotta proofread this stiff. (I mean, stuff.)

  4. Miriam says:

    I know, Dave. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’m sure there are lots of really obscure songs based on books/stories but not that many of them become top-40 fodder.

    And, Kate, I can see Metallica and Hemingway working well together. Not sure about Slim Shady and THE GIVER–will have to give it some thought.

  5. Kate says:


    I was thinking The Giver, in his deepest anguish, slamming the falseness of his world, yet having to protect it, until he could make a plan for Jonas to redeem it.

    So not Jonas. Jonas would need a younger, more innocent voice.

    Adele’s perfect for Bel Canto.

  6. Lynn says:

    As Dave said, it is hard to come up with a list of songs. An old classic White Rabbit/Jefferson Airplane, based on Alice in Wonderland, is the only one that comes to mind at the moment.

  7. Miriam says:

    Ooh, that’s a good one, Lynn. My husband would appreciate it–big JA fan back in the day.

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