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In a bookshop in Bath a band has come together to write songs based on the books of visiting authors. Watch a video here. This inspired me to think about the relationship between music and literature. From Jerusalem to Wuthering Heights, the words of great writers have been put to music (albeit rather painfully in the latter example). Here are some other literary links:
The band Modest Mouse takes their name from a Virginia Woolf short story The Mark on the Wall.
‘I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises.’
Belle and Sebastian are named after Belle et Sébastien by Cécile Aubry, a classic French children’s novel.
Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello named themselves after Nikolai Gogol, the Ukrainian born Russian realist. They said that they admire the way he brought Ukrainian culture into Russia and aim to bring their brand of music to the West in the same way.
Both David Bowie and Radiohead have based songs on George Orwell’s 1984. Radiohead have also based songs on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Ion Square by Bloc Party uses part of an E. E. Cummings poem as its chorus. They also took inspiration from Bret Easton Ellis‘ Less Than Zero for Song for Clay.
Here’s John Cale‘s Hedda Gabler, inspired by the Ibsen play.
There are many Nabakov references in Lana Del Rey‘s album Born to Die. Consider Off to the Races: ‘Light of life, fire of my loins…’
Soma by The Strokes is about the population-controlling drug from Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World.
Watch Leonard Nimoy sing The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, inspired by J. R. R. Tolkein‘s The Hobbit. It’s a treat.
Some bands are created just as homage to literature, for example Harry and the Potters are solely committed to J. K. Rowling‘s magical back catalogue.
What are your favourite songs inspired by literature? Leave me a comment!
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