10 Songs about Books
As a musician you can only write so many songs about unrequited love, that is why songwriters often turn to literature as a source of lyrical inspiration.
1. The Smiths: William, It Was Really Nothing
Lying is a great way to improve your life with zero effort on your part. If you are not successful or particularly interesting, the least you can do is have other people think that you are. This was the philosophy of William Fisher a man capable of juggling two fiancées and a girlfriend all at the same time. He is the 19 year old protagonist of the novel, Billy Liar. The novel has been adapted countless times and also served as the inspiration for this song by The Smiths.
2. The Decemberists: Billy Liar
Almost 20 years after The Smiths released their take on Billy Liar, The Decemberists, pioneers of literary rock that they are, returned to the same well and proved that great literature does not necessarily suffer from diminishing returns.
3. Dead Prez: Animal in Man
Animal Farm is quite possibly the definitive 20th century allegorical novel and due to its brevity it is also one of the few books that High School students actually read cover to cover. Despite its source material, this song by Dead Prez focuses less on the rise of Communism and more on the darker side of humanity.
4. MC Lars: Ahab
Rappers are no strangers to kicking it old school and MC Lars is no exception. For this song he takes things way back to 1851 and delivers a succinct recounting of Herman Melville's epic tome. Not an easy task when you consider that the book is well over 600 pages.
5. Harry and the Potters: The Human Hosepipe
Using literature as an inspiration for a song is one thing, but what about using literature as an inspiration for an entire musical genre? That is precisely what Harry and the Potters have done. They are the founding fathers of Wizard Rock. A musical genre based entirely on the Harry Potter universe. Not only do they dress as characters from and write songs about the Harry Potter books, they actively promote literacy; because of this they perform almost exclusively in libraries. This song in particular is about an awkward first date between Harry Potter and his first love interest, Cho Chang.
6. Taking Back Sunday: Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)
A man driven to suicidal rage because of his girlfriend's infidelity is a well-worn cliché at this point. It was probably even a cliché when Shakespeare wrote about it in Othello over 400 years ago. Rumor has it that a similar situation occurred between the lead singers and former best friends of the Long Island Emo bands Brand New and Taking Back Sunday.
7. The Zombies: A Rose for Emily
The title of this song is borrowed from the William Faulkner short story of the same name. As any fan of reality television can tell you, presenting a rose to a woman is often times the first step in the dating process. Unfortunately for the titular Emily, she was always left empty handed during the proverbial rose ceremony of life. This was due primarily to her father, who sabotaged any potential relationship in an attempt to control his daughter. As a result, Emily was transformed from a vibrant young woman, into a bitter old shut-in.
8. Dashboard Confessional: These Bones
This song was written after the lead singer of the band (Chris Carrabba) finished reading the Twilight series. The song avoids any direct references to the series and focuses primarily on the crippling loneliness and isolation brought on by a life of immortality.
9. Vampire Weekend: Giving Up the Gun
Just because a book is a work of non-fiction doesn't mean it can't serve as inspiration for a song. This song borrows heavily from the book Giving up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword. A work of non-fiction that illustrates how from 1543–1879 Japan abandoned the gun entirely, in lieu of the sword.
10. Deadmau5: The Veldt
This song was produced shortly before the death of notable science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, As a result the music video was dedicated to the author and features many scenes from his short story of the same name. The story is about two children who spend an unhealthy amount of time in a virtual reality simulator, which they have set to look like an African Savanna. The chorus of the song “The World the Children Made” is also the title under which the story was originally published.