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The Ultimate Bookworm Summer Playlist

It has been said that “art begets art.” Never has this been so true than in the case of bands inspired by books!

 

We’ve compiled some of the best examples of musicians who have written songs about their favorite works of fiction. From Taylor Swift to The Velvet Underground to Kate Bush, here is the bookworm’s essential summer playlist, guaranteed to get you in the mood for some sunny summer reading! 

 

1. Love Story by Taylor Swift

 

Shakespeare bust

Image Courtesy of Biography

 

One of Taylor Swift’s most catchy hits is inspired by Shakespeare’s timeless ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ The song tracks the lovers from their first meeting ‘We were both young when I first saw you / I close my eyes and the flashback starts / I’m standing there on a balcony in summer air’ to an imagined happier ending for the famously doomed pair ‘I talked to your dad, go pick out a white dress / It’s a love story, baby just say yes”

 

2. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane

 

illustration of white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland

Image Courtesy of 1000 Museums

 

Jefferson Airplane’s most famous song, written by frontwoman Grace Slick, was directly inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The children’s classic was read to her often as a child, and every lyric references it. Slick stated that for her following ‘the white rabbit’ meant following her curiosity, and the song became an anthem for 60s psychedelics.  

 

3. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush

 

Emily Bronte

Image Courtesy of Famous People

 

Written when she was just 18 years old, Bush’s song was inspired by Emily Bronte’s haunting tale of love and obsession. The famous lines ‘Heathcliff, it’s me, it’s Cathy, I’ve come home/ I’m so cold/ Let me in at your window’ references the chilling return of Catherine Earnshaw’s ghost. This year, thousands gathered in locations across the globe, on July 15, to imitate Bush’s iconic dress and dancing in the video. That day became coined as The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever.

 

4. Ender Will Save Us All by Dashboard Confessional

 

Book cover for Ender's Game

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia 

 

This emo classic references Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi classic Ender’s Game. Though the lyrics are vague, there is much discussion online about how they link up to the text of the novel. This song will be a nostalgia trip hard enough to send anyone who listened to it as a teenager flying right back to their youth and their favorite dystopian world.

 

5.1984 by David Bowie

 

George Orwell

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia 

 

Bowie’s 1974 track from the album Diamond Dogs was originally written for a staged musical of George Orwell’s 1984 (the musical never came to be). This is not the only song inspired by Orwell’s seminal work; Marilyn Manson, Coldplay, and The Clash are just some of the other artists who have been inspired by it!

 

6. Who Wrote Holden Caulfield by Green Day 

 

J.D Salinger

Image Courtesy of Vanity Fair

 

Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong was forced to read J.D Salinger’s coming-of-age novel, The Catcher in the Rye, while in school. He was not happy about it. While this book is universally beloved of angsty teens, the fact that he had no choice in reading it enraged Armstrong. Years later, he wrote this song as a tribute to teens feeling apathetic as a result of adult authority. That’s something Holden Caulfield could definitely relate to! 

 

7. I am the Walrus by The Beatles

 

Original illustration of Walrus and Carpenter

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Another Lewis Carroll-inspired hit, this beloved Beatles track references the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter. John Lennon received a letter from a school student saying that his English teacher had been analyzing Beatles lyrics in class. Lennon was so amused by this that he decided to make the lyrics of his next song the most confusing yet. No wonder he turned to Carroll for inspiration! 

 

8. Into the West by Annie Lennox

 

Return of the King book cover

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia 

 

This dreamy ballad is an ode to J.R.R Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings and was used in the closing credits of the 2003 movie The Return of the King. It’s sung from the point of view of Elvish queen Galadriel and several phrases are taken from the book. 

 

9. Narcissist by The Libertines

 

Dorian Gray bookcover

Image Courtesy of International Hero

 

Oscar Wilde’s only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is referenced in this track from the Peter Doherty-fronted indie rock outfit. They use Dorian Gray’s fixation with maintaining his youth at any cost to critique modern day society’s obsession with beauty: ‘all your models in magazines and on the walls/ You wanna be just like them/ Cause they’re so cool/ They’re just narcissists/ Well wouldn’t it be nice to be Dorian Gray?’

 

10. Pet Cemetary by The Ramones

 

Single cover for Pet Cemetery by Ramones

Image Courtesy of Genius

 

This punk classic is inspired by the Stephen King novel appeared in the 1989 movie adaptation. King is a huge Ramones fan and apparently gave Dee Dee Ramone a copy of Pet Cemetary. Ramone, in turn, used to write the lyrics to this hit! 

 

11. The River by PJ Harvey

 

Flannery O'Connor

Image Courtesy of Famous Authors

 

This haunting melody is based on Flannery O’Connor’s short story of the same name about a boy who is brought to a river baptism by his babysitter, and, feeling neglected by his parents, agrees to be baptized when told by the preacher that this will make him ‘count.’

 

12. Song For Clay by Bloc Party

 

Less Than Zero book cover

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The opening track of Bloc Party’s album A Weekend in the City is inspired by Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. The song pays homage to Easton Ellis’s main character Clay, and many images from the text appear in the lyrics, including the sign “Disappear Here” and the line “people are afraid to merge on the freeways.”

 

13. Venus in Furs by The Velvet Underground

 

Leopold von Sacher Masoch

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia 

 

This song, first released in 1967 and sung by frontman Lou Reed, references the two lead characters from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel of the same name from 1870. The song deals with themes of sexuality and dominance, and it is from von Sacher-Masoch’s name that the term “masochoism” derives. “Venus in Furs” is an iconic song of the 60s and 70s as The Velvet Underground were key players in the music and art scene during that time, hanging out with the likes of Nico, Andy Warhol, and Edie Sedgewick. 

 

14. Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure

 

CD of Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure

 

This song is a direct reference to Penelope Farmer’s classic 1969 children’s novel of the same name. The titular character Charlotte, when sent to boarding school, discovers she has traveled 40 years into the past and has taken the place of a girl called Clare. Frontman Robert Smith claimed this novel was the most direct literary influence on the band. 

 

15. Over the Love by Florence and the Machine

 

Single cover for Over the Love by Florence and the Machine

 

Written for Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of F. Scott FitzGerald’s beloved novel The Great Gatsby, this song references some of the key images in the text, including Daisy’s yellow dress and the green light of the lighthouse across the bay. Florence Welch frequently talks about the impact that literature has had on her music.  According to her band’s fan club site, she even hosts a monthly book club for fans called “Between Two Books!” 

 

Featured images courtesy of Film Forum and Plan Wallpaper.