10 Songs You Might Not Know Are Based On Your Favorite Books

Ever wonder what the inspiration was behind your all-time favorite songs or that summer hit that’s been stuck in your head? Take a look, it’s probably a book!

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Books Inspired by Songs

What are the two most loved expressions of art? Music and literature! There are so many ways in which songs have inspired books and poems and vice versa! There are legendary musicians, such as Led Zepplin, who have songs inspired by Lord of the Rings, or international artists like Rosalía, whose songs on her El Mal Querer album correspond to a chapter in the novela, Flamenca. Bookstr is a place where book culture meets pop culture, so we have gathered ten songs that are inspired by literature!

“Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles


It’s been three years since the release of Harry Styles’ hit single, and it’s still looping in our heads today. You may know all the words, but did you know that it was inspired by the book In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan? According to his Tiny Desk Concert with NPR, Styles saw the novel on a table and said with a slight shrug, “That would sound cool!” Although the song is strictly inspired by just the title of the story, Styles is a bookish person! You can check out a few books he has mentioned here.

“Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush


Whether you’ve been a longtime fan or recently discovered her through Stranger Things, you know that Kate Bush makes iconic music. In 1978, Bush released her debut single “Wuthering Heights,” based on the Emily Brontë novel of the same name. After watching the 1967 BBC adaptation, Bush read the book and was inspired. Both references and direct quotes from the book can be found within the lyrics. Give the song a listen, and I promise you’ll have “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy / I’ve come home, I’m so cold / Let me in-a-your window” stuck in your head.

“tolerate it” by Taylor Swift


We all know the Romeo and Juliet allusions found in “Love Story,” but Taylor Swift has drawn much inspiration from other pieces of literature. In an interview for the Apple Music Awards in 2020, Swift explained how the song “tolerate it” from her evermore album is based on Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. She related to Rebecca, who was “doing all these things, and she’s trying so hard, and she’s trying to impress him, and he’s just tolerating her the whole time.” Other pieces of literature inspire Swift’s discography, including classic poets in her song “the lakes.”

“1984” by David Bowie


Unsurprisingly, “1984” by David Bowie was directly inspired by George Orwell’s novel of the same name. What may surprise you is that Bowie did not intend to just make one song based on the novel, but rather make an entire musical theatre adaptation. The dystopian novel was a hit in the 70s, so it only made sense to him that a stage show was in order! Unfortunately, it never came to pass, and the remnants of this musical can be found scattered amongst Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album.

“Blood Sweat & Tears” by BTS


World-renowned Kpop group BTS not only has bookish members, but they also have songs inspired by the literature they consume. In the music video for their 2017 title track, “Blood Sweat & Tears,” the group used multiple elements of symbolism and allusions to Demian by Hermann Hesse. Their leader, RM, even quotes a line from the novel, saying, “He too was a tempter; he, too, was a link to the second [world], the evil world with which I no longer wanted to have anything to do.”

“I Wanna Be Yours” by Arctic Monkeys


Indie band Arctic Monkeys, who are releasing their new album this October, have their own musical take on John Cooper Clarke’s poem, I Wanna Be Yours. Frontman Alex Turner took the original poem and seamlessly added lines such as “Secrets I have held in my heart / are harder to hide than I thought“ to better reflect their album. In an interview with NME, Clarke supported and approved of Arctic Monkey’s take on his poem, despite not having listened to it at the time. I hope Clarke has pre-saved The Car.

“Cassandra” by ABBA


For decades, ABBA has been blessing us with timeless musical masterpieces. Forty-one years ago, the women released “Cassandra” based on the mythological Greek figure that can be found in The Iliad and other pieces of Greek mythology. Cassandra was a woman that was both given the gift of prophecy and the curse of never being believed by Apollo. ABBA give their apologies to Cassandra, saying, “Sorry Cassandra, I misunderstood…Sorry Cassandra, I didn’t believe…”

“United States of Eurasia” by Muse


Like Bowie and many other musical legends, many of Muse’s songs are heavily inspired by Orwell’s 1984, and “United States of Eurasia” is no exception. In the novel, Eurasia is one of the states that the world is divided into. When Zane Lowe interviewed Muse on Radio 1, Matt Bellamy had told him that he re-read the book before writing their fifth album and was “more taken with the love story.” “Resistance,” another song on that album, is also heavily inspired by the novel.

“Table of Contents (Pts 1 & 2)” by The Roots


The band that has been redefining music, specifically in rap and hip hop, for the past few decades has taken inspiration from literature as well. The Roots’ 1999 album, Things Fall Apart is based on the debut novel of the same name by Chinua Achebe. “Table Of Contents” sets the tone for the rest of the album and is the first mention of the book. Founding member Questlove discusses how he found the novel to be “an analogy for hip hop” in his memoir Mo Meta Blues, saying, “…we were part of a music that had been so new, so true to itself, but there had been corruption from the outside, and what was once there had gone.”

“Annabel Lee” by Stevie Nicks


Finally, we have music legend, Stevie Nicks who was inspired by literary legend, Edgar Allen Poe. On her album In Your Dreams, Nicks directly quotes almost the entirety of Poe’s poem, Annabel Lee. Nicks told the Ventura County Star that she remembers “…sitting on my bed, in my mom and dad’s house, writing that song and being so overwhelmed with the romanticism of it. All of my songs are windows into my past…” There are minimal changes that she makes, but Nicks maintains the beauty from Poe’s source material.

What a beautiful world we live in where we get deep expressions of love, creativity, and art through both literature and music. Let’s keep the good vibes going! Click here to see songs we think represent the characters in Lord of the Flies.