literary songs

  • "Lodestar" - Sarah Harmer (D.H. Lawrence)
  • "Charlotte Sometimes" - The Cure (Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer)
  • "Killing an Arab" - The Cure (The Stranger by Albert Camus)
  • "Cemetry Gates" - The Smiths (John Keats, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde)
  • "Afternoons and Coffeespoons" - Crash Test Dummies (T.S. Elliot)
  • "Me & Jerome" - Sarah Slean (J.D. Salinger)
  • "Don't Stand So Close To Me" - Police (Vladimir Nabakov)
  • "Tear in Your Hand" - Tori Amos (Neil Gaiman)
  • "The Dangling Conversation" - Simon & Garfunkel (Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost)
  • "Starseed" - Our Lady Peace (The Starseed Transmissions by Ken Carey)
  • until i get time to add these individually, see this page for many of Morrissey's lyrical literary references
  • see this page for Queen's lyrical literary references (Freddie Mercury was big into Shakespeare and Wordsworth)
  • see this page for Belle & Sebastian's lyrical literary references
  • ------------------------------------------------
  • "My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors" - Moxy Fruvous (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, William S. Burroughs, bell hooks, Pierre Burton, Mario Puzo, W.P. Kinsella, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Michael Ondaatje, Doris Lessing)
  • "Wuthering Heights" - Kate Bush, also covered by Pat Benatar (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
  • "Hey Jack Kerouac" - 10,000 Maniacs (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, etc.)
  • "Ghost of Tom Joad" - Bruce Springsteen/Rage Against the Machine (Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck)
  • "Breakfast at Tiffany's" - Deep Blue Something (Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote)
  • "Roxanne" - The Police (Roxana by Daniel Defoe
  • "Sister Moon" - Sting ("Sonnet 130" by William Shakespeare)
  • "How Beautiful You Are" - The Cure ("The Eyes of the Poor" by Charles Baudelaire)
  • "The Drowing Man" - The Cure ("Gormenghast" by Mervyn Peake)
  • "The Empty World" - The Cure (Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer)
  • "Splintered in her Head" - The Cure (Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer)
  • "Adonais" - The Cure ("Adonais" by P.B.Shelley)
  • "Treasure" - The Cure ("Remember" by Christina Rossetti)
  • "Bananafish bones" - The Cure (A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J.D. Salinger)
  • "Paranoid Android" - Radiohead (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)
  • "Virginia Woolf" - Indigo Girls (Virginia Woolf)
  • "Dead Souls" - Joy Division (Nikolai Gogol)
  • "?" - Beastie Boys (J.D. Salinger)
  • "Ballad of a Thin Man" - Bob Dylan (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • "Desolation Row" - Bob Dylan (Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare, "Cinderella", Ezra Pound, and T.S. Elliot)
  • "Heroes" - Jill Sobule (William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Lewis Carrol, and T.S. Elliot)
  • "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" - Megadeth (poem of same name by Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
  • "I Should Be Allowed to Think" - They Might Be Giants ("Howl" by Allen Ginsberg)
  • "Footnote to Howl" - Patti Smith ("Howl" by Allen Ginsberg)
  • "Courage" - Tragically Hip ("The Watch That Ends The Night" by Hugh MacLennan)
  • "Shame Shame" - Sloan (Dames Dames by Laura Borealis)
  • "Median Strip" - Sloan (Inherit the Median Strip by Laura Borealis)
  • "The Highwayman" - Phil Ochs (poem of same name by Alfred Noyes)
  • "The Bells" - Phil Ochs (poem of same name by Edgar Allan Poe)
  • "I Shall Not Care" - Tom Rapp/Pearls Before Swine (poem of same name by Sara Teasdale)
  • "Einstein's Daughter" - the Nields (Einstein's Daughter by Michelle Zackheim)
  • "My Science-Fiction Twin" - Elvis Costello "Kerouac" - Morphine (Jack Kerouac)
  • "Moon Over Bourbon Street" - Sting (Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice)
  • "Wrapped Around Your Finger" - Police (Faust by Goethe/Marlowe; Odyssey by Homer)
Author Comments: 

i know i can think of more, but for now--these are the songs i can think of that were either inspired by literary works, or include the names of writers... let me know if you have any suggestions.

Just off the top of my head, "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" by Moxy Fruvous. Mentions tons, but a few are Ondaatje, Doris Lessing, Robertson Davies, and Margaret Atwood.

ok, first of all--i'm totally ashamed that i didn't already have this on the list. thanks for noting my major oversight. :)

Breakfast At Tiffany's by Deep Blue Something, even though it's referring to the film, I guess it still might count...

yeah, i kind of thought of that. it's a good idea, but i'm leaning against it for some reason. thanks tho!

"Don't Stand So Close to Me" The Police - line "that famous book by Nabakov"

definitely a good addition. thanks!

and i've always suspected that the inspiration for Roxanne came from Dafoe's Roxana.

I've thought the same thing before, and consider Sting's past career as an English teacher, I bet we're both right.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

How 'bout Sister Moon by Sting? "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun."

a couple questions: what's dafoe's full name? and is that a book or poem? i did a search on the web and didn't come up with anything. i thought maybe i could find confirmation--i'll keep looking and let you know what i discover.

You're probably not finding anything because the name is off by a letter! His name is Daniel D*e*foe, the author of Robinson Crusoe.

The book is actually public domain and available online. The link is:


Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

thank you so much! i can always count on you.

Wuthering Heights-- Kate Bush

Many Sting/Police songs are full of literary allusions... Unfortunately, I cannot seem to think of any specific examples right now.

thanks for the kate bush reminder--good call! and if you think of more Sting/Police stuff, let me know.

Just to be a stickler, it's Brontë.

I thought of a couple of others:
-Radiohead's OK Computer album has references to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
-Hey Jack Kerouac by 10,000 Maniacs
-Dead Souls, by Joy Division (Gogol)
-The Sounds of Science, by the Beastie Boys (Galileo)
-A Beastie Boys song that I can't remember the name of but it has the line "And I got more rhymes than JD's got Salinger".

And there's also Bob Dylan (last name comes from Dylan Thomas' name) and the mid-90's English Band The House of Love, named after Anais Nin's A Spy in the House of Love.

well, thank you--whoever you are. :) i can't believe i overlooked the maniacs. there are probably tons there.

i'm not aware of the ok computer references to hitchhiker, but i'll look for that. and unfortunately i'm not that familiar with the b-boys or joy division.

and i think the literary band name could be a totally other list... i know there's a band called Sibyl Vane that's named after a character in Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. i'll have to ponder that awhile.

yes, there's a great french band named after Sibyl Vane's character...

how about "The Ghost of Tom Joad" by Rage Against the Machine (Grapes of Wrath)? Or "Virginia Woolf" by the Indigo Girls...

let me correct myself...I love cover songs, but this is one I thought I had right. I believe the orginal artist behind "The Ghost of Tom Joad" was Bruce Springstein, not Rage

i noticed you had a couple of Cure songs in there, but not "How Beautiful You Are" from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. It is actually taken (in many instances, word for word) from a prose poem by Baudelaire called "The Eyes of the Poor," something i discovered quite accidentally one day.

oh yes, "How Beautiful You Are", there are tons of others, though. in fact, about 15 Cure songs with references to literary works. My favourites are "The Drowing Man" ("Gormenghast" by Mervyn Peake), "Charlotte Sometimes", "The Empty World", "Splintered in her Head" (all three influenced by Penelope Farmer's "Charlotte Sometimes"), "Adonais" ("Adonais" by P.B.Shelley), "Treasure" ("Remember" by Christina Rossetti), "Bananafish bones" (A Perfect Day for Bananafish" by J.D. Salinger)... and lots of others. BTW: I wrote my dissertation on 4 of them (about 100 pages of deep and boring (???) analyses)! :)

Bob Dylan - Ballad of a Thin Man ("F. Scott Fitzgerald")
Bob Dylan - Desolation Row (Mentions the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Romeo, Ophelia, Cinderella, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot )

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Jill Sobule (the famed "I Kissed a Girl" singer from the mid-90's) has a song about how all our heroes seem to be pretty terrible people (ie, revisionists have discovered in most famous peoples' closets). Some of the writers mentioned in the song, called "Heroes": William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Lewis Carrol, and TS Elliot.

good call! thanks for your addition. ;)

Hi, I'm working on a mixtape that sums up my college career as a writer and English major, and this page is a great resource. Some I thought up: My Science-Fiction Twin by Elvis Costello and Kerouac by Morphine. Also Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting - straight out of Interview with the Vampire - and I think it's Wrapped Around Your Finger by the Police that references...what is it..."Mephistopheles is not your name, but I know what you're up to just the same."

The Police's Wrapped Around Your Finger also makes reference to the Odyssey (Scylla and Charybdis).

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Atrocity Exhibition (Joy Division) has the same title as the book by JG Ballard.

Also Joy Division's 'Interzone' is a Naked Lunch(Burroughs) reference.

also bob dylans songs DEsolation rowis from kerouacs desolation angels and Subterranean Homesick blues is from the subterreans.

"Take this Waltz" by leonard Cohen is inspired and lifts from A poem by Garcia-Lorca of a similar name.

Belle and Sebastian have many references such as "I'm not as sad as Dostoyevski - I'm not as clever as Mark Twain"