9 Songs Inspired By Stories
02 Sep 2015
Have you ever been casually listening to a song and wonder how it came to be? Maybe a specific lyric, or something about the mood reminds you of something you’ve experienced before. There isn’t always a story behind the tune, but thats not the case with these nine songs. If you’ve felt particularly inspired after a good read you aren’t alone; the producers of these songs, popular and otherwise, were also inspired by works of great fiction writers.
This song was inspired by Nabakov’s most famous novel, Lolita. The story of a tutor with a strong attraction to an alarmingly young pupil practically screams out in the chorus (“don’t stand so close to me”), and the music video only makes it easier.
Sufjan Stevens’ music has been inspired by art ranging from the BQE to the Bible, Royal Robertson to Flannery O’Connor. It’s not hard to believe then that Stevens was once an aspiring writer before he devoted his life to music and, while he has never tried to hide his appreciation for Flannery O’Connor, his poetic lyrics are proof enough of the path not taken. A Good Man is Hard to Find is named after one of O’Connor’s best known works of fiction, a story about a family traveling through the rural South, lead astray by the failing memory of an aging grandmother. It’s a quick read and, while a little longer than a three minutes listen, well worth your time.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant love The Lord of the Rings. They make that very clear in this and a few other songs (The Battle of Evermore, Misty Mountain Hop). Even the beginning lines of “Ramble On” are reminiscent of a Tolkien poem, but the direct references to Mordor and Gollum make this song, which initially seems to be about finding a certain girl, appear to be about something more…precious.
This song has more than a little history behind it. Bloc Party was a band that became fairly popular in the early 2000’s, this track leading off their 2006 release “A Weekend in the City”. The song was inspired by Brett Easton Ellis’ first book Less Than Zero (which, funny enough, is named after the Elvis Costello song of the same name) and captures the hedonistic, nihilistic tone of the debut novel. This same book was also adapted into a film Robert Downey Junior attributes to the tipping point of his early career (he later buried the clothes of his character in an act of giving up his previous lifestyle).
What could inspire a song as simple and goofy as Whip it? Parodies of cliche American songs and poetry present in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. A novel that garnered a great deal of attention and even won , Gravity’s Rainbow has been slated as the American version of Ulysseus and other confusing/rewarding works. This song? Less so, but inspired none the less.
Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World has a very iconic feature: the drug named Soma. When The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas wrote this song it was to convey drug use for the purpose of fitting in. A perfect society conforms, right?
“Do you know where the wild things go?” Joe Newman croons in each verse, a direct reference to the beloved children’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. While the song itself follows a dangerous. obsessive relationship, the dark references to wanting something so bad you’re willing to hurt it pull from the pages of a book you probably haven’t held since you were a child.
A musician that takes their name from a Victorian era writer might have a few songs inspired by stories. The novel that inspired this song was actually written by the artist’s brother, Mark Z. Danielezwski. House of Leaves is a well known psychological horror story renowned for its multiple layers and unconventional form. This song may be easier to follow than the three tiered story, but both are worth spending time on.
The National casts a similar spell in nearly all of their music; a deep melancholy broadcast in both the bittersweet melodies and the deep baritone of Matt Berninger’s voice. Ever read a story that dropped you right in a mood so quickly you felt like you sat in a puddle? Ever read The Brothers Karamazov? This song, originally titled Karamazov, stirs with the hopeless hopefulness seen in the humanity of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s (arguably) greatest work.
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