The best kinds of books are books that sit with you for some time after you finish your read. It may be a passage, a quote, or an entire scene that sticks in the back of your mind, and for these artists, it was very much the same sensation. Below are six great books whose compelling stories encouraged artists to compose songs.
1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
This passionate and violent tale of doomed and destructive love influenced Kate Bush back in 1978. Under the same title, Wuthering Heights tells the story from Catherine’s point of view as she begs and calls out to Heathcliff as a ghost yearning for love. Wuthering Height’s inclusion of supernatural intervention, futile revenge, and destructive love work together smoothly to form a song that topped British single charts and reach #1 in four different countries.
2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
This beloved fantastical classic has found much success after being adapted into films, video games, radio, musical theatre, and even songs. In 1969, Led Zeppelin released Ramble On. Vocalist Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page were both fans of the series and reference several characters in the lyrics. Even in the twenty-first century, The Lord of the Rings still has a presence in modern culture as seen through recent television adaptations.
3. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
This 1900 children’s story is yet another novel that gave birth to films, museums, Halloween costumes, and dozens and dozens of songs. One of the more popular songs inspired by this famous book is Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John in 1973. An ode to leaving behind fame and glamour for humble beginnings and peaceful farm life, John mirrors Baum’s initial message that reads “There is no place like home”.
4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
When Rush drummer, Neil Peart, read this classic tale, he admired and resonated with the themes of defiance and self-sufficiency. He transferred these themes to the 1981 hit Tom Sawyer, embellished with strong drums and a winning guitar melody.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill Mockingbird is a story about heroism and integrity seen through the narrator’s father, Atticus Finch. Atticus by the Noisettes is a dedication to the namesake and his ability to disregard cruel societal norms. The opening line of the song makes sure the reference is clearly understood: “To kill a mockingbird is to silence the song that seduces you“.
6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Within the word of Brave New World, soma is a drug that numbs those who take it by overriding any sense of emotion with simple pleasure. From The Strokes’ 2001 debut album, Soma opens with “soma is what they would take when hard times opened their eyes”. The song compares a person to the drug and how important that individual is with a subtle reference back to Huxley’s 1932 novel.
These novels, some written almost a hundred years ago, still take occupation in our present world through different adaptations. More than just songs, these books have inspired theatrical productions, comics, video games, films, television shows, and even spin-offs. Art inspires art. Recently, artist SAPPHIRE gained attention on Twitter. She composed an ode to Stranger Things character Eddie Munson through her song titled Eddie’s Song. The cycle of reinverting art will always continue. It’s just a matter of time to wait and see which stories written now will still be on shelves for decades and decades to come.
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