The title of this article is purposely deceptive, because there are several different ways to read music. There is of course way number one, the standard EGBDF (also known as Every Good Boy Does Fine, or whatever other mnemonic device your grade school music teacher taught you) type of note reading.
Also, there is way number two, the art of reading song lyrics. 40 years later, and there are still hot debates over the meaning of the Beatles song “Come Together”.
He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football He got monkey finger, he shoot coca-cola He say “I know you, you know me” One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Speculate all you want. I still have no clue.
Lastly, the one way I personally find most interesting, is the interconnection between literature and music. Bands like Titus Andronicus and Of Mice and Men wear their literary pride front and center on their names, but so many other bands have taken the chance to display some of their bibliomania through their lyrics.
Which books have experienced this musical transformation? Let’s explore below.
Orwell’s dystopian novel about Big Brother, thoughcrimes, and Newspeak has not only introduced new words to the collective lexicon, but also influenced the musical world as well. Personally, I think the quotes “a lunatic is just a minority of one” and “so long as human beings stay human, death and life are the same thing” would make good lyrics. Someone take up that challenge.
David Bowie “1984” & “Big Brother”
Eurythmics “Sexcrime (Nineteen eighty-four)”
Muse “The Resistance”
Below is Radiohead’s “2+2=5”. Listening to this song always makes me imagine Thom Yorke reading a 1984 audiobook.
Yes the bard has inspired many songs and his works still seem current 400 years later. As much as Shakespeare pops up in media, there is a disparity of covers in the respective works of Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear, and now Titus Andronicus are making their musical rounds while so many others are ignored. The histories are waiting for someone to heed the call.
F.Y.I. Titus Andronicus answered that call as well. They’re just a group of overachievers.
John Cale “Macbeth”
Much Ado about Nothing
Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More”
Romeo and Juliet
Dire Straits “Romeo and Juliet”
Radiohead “Exit Music (For a Film)”
Titus Andronicus “Titus Andronicus Forever”
Apollodorus, Pindar, Strabo, and many other ancient Greeks
If you’ve ever heard a song about a man going to hell and back for a girl, you can thank Orpheus. While Orpheus might have failed his mission, the songs inspired by his epic journey hit the mark and deliver some powerful moments. Great suggestion, we’ve heard Orpheus’ perspective and even Eurydice’s perspective, it would be awesome to hear the story from Hades’ perspective.
Anais Mitchell’s whole album Hadestown is a reinterpretation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. It features songs like “Our Lady of the Underground”, “Hey, Little Songbird”, and “If It’s True”.
Arcade Fire “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” & “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”.
The Herd “From the Underworld”
Not including hymns, spirituals, and rappers who mention Jesus, I’m still pretty certain that the Bible has inspired more songs than any other book. This of course is a completely unsubstantiated fact that I would love to be proven wrong on, but the record shows that artists from Elvis to Metallica have included a biblical allusion or reference somewhere in a song. This trend has been around for a while and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Andrew Lloyd Weber & Tim Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar
Andrew Lloyd Weber & Tim Rice musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Stephen Schwartz & John-Michael Tebelak musical Godspell
Avenged Sevenfold “Beast and the Harlot”
Bruce Springsteen “Adam Raised a Cain”
Jeff Buckley “Hallelujah”
Mumford & Sons “Babel”
Rolling Stones “Prodigal Son”
The Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn”
Tom Jones “Delilah”
If there are any other books that inspired songs you can think of, or books you think would make good song fodder, share your ideas in the comments below.