Haliburton County Living: Pairing Books and Music

Amanda’s Adventures in Reading

Amanda Wilk

Sigh No MoreThe relationship between books and music is quite interesting. Not only do authors frequently refer to songs or albums as inspirational in the crafting of their novels, musicians too draw from literature when writing music.

Perhaps one of the bands most open about their literary influences is Mumford and Sons. East of EdenTheir debut album Sigh No More draws inspiration from numerous sources. For example, the song “Dustbowl Dance” begins with the lyrics: “The young man stands on the edge of his porch/The days were short and the father was gone/There was no one in the town and no one in the field/This dusty barren land had given all it could yield” evoking the desolate Oklahoman landscape the Joads migrate from at the start of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. While the song “Timshel”, a Hebrew word meaning ‘thou mayest’ draws meaning from Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing plays into the song “Sigh No More”, and “Roll Away Your Stone”, forms lyrics from Macbeth. “The Cave” draws from Homer’s The Odyssey, as well as Plato’s allegory of the cave; and finally, “Little Lion Man” retells Chretien de Troyes Yvain or The Knight with the Lion.

A multitude of other examples of songs and artists influenced by literature exist. A few other novel inspired songs include:

  • 1984 by David Bowie, which draws from Orwell’s classic dystopian novel of the same name
  • White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, which evokes the madness of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
  •  Ramble On by Led Zeppelin, which include lyrics like: “’Twas in the darkest depth of Mordor/ I met a girl so fair/ But Gollum, and the evil one crept up/ And slipped away with her,” quite obviously drawing from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

But as stated earlier, this topic can be explored from two sides, and books also frequently draw inspiration from musicians as well as song lyrics.

More Than ThisThe epigraphs of novels (phrases, quotations, or poems that precede the text of a novel) are often More Than This PGsong lyrics. For example, in Patrick Ness’s most recent young adult title More Than This, the epigraph is “Nothing fades as fast as the future/ Nothing clings like the past,” which are from Peter Gabriel’s song More Than This, implying that more than the novel’s epigraph was inspired by these lyrics. In fact, the novel’s plot is quite aptly surmised in the aforementioned epigraph, as it is a book about a boy who within the first few pages dies in a wintry cold ocean, only to awake in his childhood home, which appears to have been abandoned for many, many years. Both readers and the boy are unsure whether he has truly died, and is destined to spend eternity alone, or if there could be something more to it all.

Can you think of other novels that have been inspired songs or musicians? If so, share them with us on our Facebook page or Goodreads group, both of which are accessible through our website at www.haliburtonlibrary.ca.

*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on September 26th 2013

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