Books inspire creativity in many ways. Nothing can paint a picture in our mind like a good book – except maybe a good song. What follows are some songs that were inspired by books. Some you probably knew about – but some may surprise you!
20 Songs That Were Inspired by Books
1. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
The haunting 60’s rock classic was inspired by “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
2. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult
Inspired, in part, by “Romeo and Juliet.”
The song is about the inevitability of death and the foolishness of fearing it, and was written when (Buck)Dharma was thinking about what would happen if he died at a young age. Lyrics such as “Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity” have led many listeners to interpret the song to be about a murder-suicide pact, but Dharma says the song is about eternal love, rather than suicide. He used Romeo and Juliet as motifs to describe a couple believing they would meet again in the afterlife. He guessed that “40,000 men and women” died each day, and the figure was used several times in the lyrics.
3. 1984 by David Bowie
Inspired by the dystopian George Orwell novel of the same name.
4. Dear God by XTC
5. Scentless Apprentice by Nirvana
Inspired by “Perfume: The Story of a Murder” by Patrick Suskind, lead singer Kurt Cobain’s favorite book.
The song “Scentless Apprentice” was written about Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, a historical horror novel about a perfumer’s apprentice born with no body odor of his own but with a highly developed sense of smell, and who attempts to create the “ultimate perfume” by killing virgin women and taking their scent.
6. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica
Inspired by the Ernest Hemmingway classic of the same name.
7. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
8. Ramble On by Led Zeppelin
With these lyrics: ‘Twas 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” it’s no surprise “Ramble On” is inspired by the epic Tolkein classic “Lord of the Rings.”
9. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me by The Police
“That book by Nabokov” is referenced in this classic song about an inappropriate student/teacher relationship. Of course, “that book” is “Lolita.”
10. Among the Living by Anthrax
Inspired by the Stephen King’s end of the world, good vs evil, epic classic: “The Stand.”
11. Pigs (Three Different Ones) by Pink Floyd
Inspired by George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”
12. The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen
Inspired by John Steinbeck’s classic “The Grapes of Wrath.”
13. Whip It by Devo
Inspired by “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon.
14. The Trick of the Tail by Genesis
Inspired by William Golding’s 1955 novel, “The Inheritors.”
15. Dustbowl Dance by Mumford & Sons
Dust Bowl Dance is another song inspired by “Grapes of Wrath.”
16. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) by AC/DC
“AC/DC guitarist Angus Young got the idea after reading a book Bon Scott gave him about the gladiator games in ancient Rome. Young remembers the book as For Those About To Die We Salute You by Robert Graves, but Graves never wrote a book with that title. It’s likely that the book was Those About to Die by Daniel Mannix.”
17. L.A. Woman by The Doors
Inspired by John Rechy’s 1963 novel “City of Night. ”
18. Misty Mountain Hop by Led Zeppelin
Another song inspired by Tolkien, Misty Mountain Hop has references from “Return of the King.”
19. Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac
Stevie Nick’s story of a Welch witch was inspired by “Triad” by Mary Leader.
20. Sympathy For the Devil by The Rolling Stones
Inspired by “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov.
Affiliate links were used in this post.