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The Band That Reads Together, Stays Together

Who knew Iron Maiden was such a literary band?

Seriously. Wikipedia has a list of songs inspired by novels, and this heavy metal band seems to have quite a library a books, judging by all the literature-inspired songs in their catalog.

As I thought about songs inspired by literature, I quickly remembered Eminem’s song, “Rabbit, Run,” which was inspired by the depressing John Updike novel of the same name. (Here’s my review of Rabbit, Run).

But, apparently, Iron Maiden isn’t the only band who reads a book or two. I guess these guys have plenty of time on the road, so why not read a little Tolkien or Bellow on the bus?

Here’s just a sample of songs inspired by great books:

  • “Rain King” by Counting Crows, inspired by Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
  • “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John, inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • “Battle of Evermore,” “Ramble On” and “Misty Mountain Hop” by Led Zeppelin, inspired by The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • “Lord of the Flies” by Iron Maiden retells Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Iron Maiden also wrote songs based on Dune, Brave New World, Rime of the Ancient Mariner and many other songs.
  • Who Wrote Holden Caulfield” by Green Day is based on Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

Here’s a super cool version of “Rain King” by the Counting Crows (my 2nd favorite band) to start off your weekend. And while you’re watching, what are some of your favorite songs or bands that have been inspired by literature?

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. bba #

    One of my favorite bands, Okkervil River, took their name from the title of a story by the Russian writer Tatyana Tolstaya. They also have a song called “The Okkervil River Song.” have a listen…


    June 24, 2011
  2. had no idea about “ramble on”
    one of my favorite songs.
    zepplin rocks!


    June 24, 2011
  3. Speaking of heavy metal, Mastodon recorded an entire concept album, Leviathan, based on Moby Dick . . . pretty heavy stuff, but “Blood and Thunder” is great for a work-out/run pump-up!!


    June 24, 2011
    • I think you also told me about the guy that wrote a whole album based on Blood Meridian.


      June 24, 2011
  4. I’m completely impressed that Eminem wrote a song inspired by Rabbit, Run. My favorite of these is “Home at Last” by Steely Dan, which retells Ulysses’ encounter with the Sirens from the Odyssey. Check it out-


    June 24, 2011
  5. I’m going to be THAT person — the one who takes the easy way out.
    Wikipedia actually has a list of songs inspired by a work of literature and here it is.


    June 25, 2011
    • Note that Pink has a song called “Catch-22!”


      June 25, 2011
    • Rae #

      “Into the West” by Annie Lennox shouldn’t count really since it was made for the films of The Lord of the Rings.


      December 2, 2011
  6. Iron Maiden also had one of the best heavy metal songs inspired by an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem,”The Trooper”.


    June 25, 2011
  7. The Alan Parsons Project did an entire album called Tales of Mystery & Imagination, and the songs were based on the macabre stories in the Edgar Alan Poe’s collection of stories by the same name. Very interesting album.


    March 21, 2012
  8. Rick Wakeman, of Yes, did a number of solo albums based on literary themes including Journey to the Center of the Earth, King Arthur and the Six Wives of Henry YIII. And the band Uriah Heep took their name from a Dickens character. And the lyricism of Jethro Tull is loaded with literary themes.


    June 23, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Decemberists Rock Infinite Jest | 101 Books
  2. Songs That Could Be Novels | 101 Books

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