Literature: 13 Songs Based on Books

Name the best track based on an actual work of literature.

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Among a vast array of inspirations that fueled the creation of amazing rock songs, books certainly played a major role, giving musicians cool ideas to fuse with their playing. That's what we're about to focus on here, check out the lucky 13 we rounded up below.

Iron Maiden - "Brave New World" (Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World")

Seeing that a great number of their classic tunes was inspired by works of literature, Iron Maiden get to kick off the list. We've opted for "Brave New World," an epic tune inspired by Aldous Huxley's classic novel, but we might as well have picked "Flight of Icarus," "El Dorado," "Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Out of the Silent Planet" and many more.

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Pink Floyd - "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" ("I Ching")

"I Ching" clearly served as one of the prominent inspiration sources for Pink Floyd, seeing that it has also inspired "Chapter 24" track off their debut effort.

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Guns N' Roses - "November Rain" (Del James' short story "Without You")

Not exactly a book, but a work of literature nevertheless, Del James' short story "Without You" inspired GN'R for "November Rain."

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Iced Earth - "Dante's Inferno" (Dante Alighieri's "Inferno")

As a band commonly inspired by literature, Iced Earth should definitely be mentioned on the list. We opted for "Dante's Inferno" as a top example.

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Rick Wakeman - "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" (Jules Verne's "Journey to the Centre of the Earth")

We'll venture forth with a true prog titan, Rick Wakeman of Yes and his "Journey to the Centre of the Earth."

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Radiohead - "2+2=5" (George Orwell's "1984")

George Orwell's "1984" inspired more than just one artist, since David Bowie has also written not one, but two tunes about the classic novel.

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Anthrax - "Among the Living" (Stephen King's "The Stand")

Getting to the thrash domain, Anthrax's "Among the Living" was in fact inspired by Stephen King's "The Stand."

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Metallica - "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls")

We could've used "One" as a great example of Metallica being inspired by books, but this time around we opted for "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

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Jefferson Airplane - "White Rabbit" (Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland")

Psychedelic and trippy, "Alice in Wonderland" was just perfect as an inspiration source back in the '60, now wasn't it?

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Led Zeppelin - "No Quarter" (Tolkien's "The Hobbit")

Led Zeppelin made sure to acknowledge being Tolkien fans on several occasions in their music, one of them being the "No Quarter" track.

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Rush - "Xanadu" (Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan")

They're also Tolkien fans (check "Rivendell" for more on that), but Rush drew inspiration for one of their most famous songs, the epic "Xanadu," from Coleridge's poem titled "Kubla Khan."

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Symphony X - "The Odyssey" (Homer's "The Odyssey")

Going all the way to Ancient Greece to find inspiration, Symphony X delivered one of their most epic pieces based on Homer's classic.

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Nirvana - "Scentless Apprentice" (Patrick Suskind's "Perfume")

We'll round it up with Kurt and co, as their "Scentless Apprentice" track was based on Patrick Suskind's "Perfume." There's also a cool movie based on that, you should check it out.

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Got some other notable examples to share? Do it in the comments.

111 comments sorted by best / new / date

    N-D
    We all know that J.R.R. Tolkien was and is a great inspirator for A LOT OF musicians - for example, almost all tracks by Austrian black metal band Summoning are inspired by Tolkien's books. And yes, H.P. Lovecraft's books are great inspiration for miriads of different bands and musicians too. Also speaking not only about songs - The Doors band name was inspired by Aldous Huxley book "The Doors of Perception".
    kratos379
    Part of the reason that I got interested in reading HP Lovecraft was that I saw Metallica wrote The Call of Ktulu and The Thing That Should Not Be based off of his stories. I read Stranger in a Strange Land, because Iron Maiden did a song on it too. I think it's actually quite a bit of fun to read some of these books knowing that it inspired some of my favorite bands.
    telephonebear
    exactly why i started reading him. some people complain about his writing style but a lot of his stories are brilliant and strangely terrifying reads.
    Z-Mo
    Bat Country by Avenged Sevenfold is speaking of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
    local_hero
    what about animals by pink floyd, the album is inspired by animal farm by george orwell
    hiya77
    Animal Farm also by The Kinks (though nothing to do with the book, still good)
    Oh_My_Goth
    Basically everything by Amorphis, they take most of their lyrics from the Kalevala, an ancient Finnish book. Also Rammstein's Du Riechst so gut is about the novel ''Perfume''
    C.Burnzy
    Mastodon's entire Leviathan album was based on Moby Dick
    JD Close
    that's not true. When I read the book, I found no mention of massive sharks or the elephant man. The record is about water, and the story behind it is inspired by Melville's classic, but the after the first two tracks there is little resemblance to the book at all
    lxmando21xl
    tom sawyer by Rush
    bifteksupernova
    How about 2112?
    Zaqq
    It's not based on any piece, it's an original story.
    bifteksupernova
    Peart acknowledges "the genius of Ayn Rand's Anthem" in the liners. Not based on the book but similar enough to recognize an influence
    telephonebear
    didnt peart say it wasnt a direct influence but that he had read it and thought it best mention it just in case
    Kueller917
    One was also based off Johnny Got His Gun was it not?
    Coheed83
    The film clip was but I think the song was just about the futility of war.
    Delta_Girlie
    And with "the futility of war," you'll find yourself right back where it started, with "One" and "Johnny Got His Gun." Because the novel is, as you so eloquently said, "just about the futility of war."
    A Basket Case
    What about Green Day's "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" That's a great early 90s pop punk song!
    mjones1992
    Don't forget "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (Iron Maiden. It's a poem, but still should be considered. "Soma" by The Strokes is a reference to Brave New World A little more loose, but "Achilles Last Stand" by Zep is obviously about certain aspects of Greek mythology (although a lot of it is atmospheric, it's still worth a mention )
    plankboy
    Trivium- "Torn between Scylla and Charybdis" is based on Homer's odyssey.
    svelle
    Most songs on the album are based on different greek mythologies.
    edruzol
    where's sympathy for the devil by the rolling stones? inspired by mikhail bulgakov's the master and margarita.
    iron_man74
    Misery loves company - anthrax. Based on Stephen king's "Misery"... I'm your number one fan
    pdodonov
    How come nothing by Blind Guardian? Traveler in Time (Dune), Wheel of Time (Wheel of Time), And Then There Was Silence (Illiad), any song from the Nightfall in Middle Earth album (The Silmarillion), The Soulforged (Dragonlance), etc etc?
    Skullivan
    The Protomen have pretty much created a rock opera combining Mega Man with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Orwell's 1984 .
    TripLid
    Really? That sounds interesting, I love both of those novels dearly. I have never heard of the Protomen before though, do they do justice to the referenced material?
    shreddguitarist
    Resistance - Muse was also inspired by George Orwell's 1984 And Mk Ultra for that matter.... In fact most of The Resistance Album
    cielmort
    No H.P. Lovecraft? His entire works where a basis for at least one song in most metal bands catalouges.
    Wyrmwould
    I can't believe not one mention of The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    Rush and Ayn Rand (Anthem - 2112) HP Lovecraft - Metallica (The Thing That Should Not Be, All Nightmare Long, Call of Ktulu), Black Sabbath (Behind The Wall of Sleep) Iron Maiden - Rime of the Ancient Mariner Mastodon - Leviathan (Moby Dick)
    Jimjambanx
    I love how he mentions For Whom The Bell Tolls but completely forgets that One is about Johnny Got His Gun.
    Dodovoodoo9
    They did mention they could have just put One but instead they opted for For Whom The Bell Tolls
    mada1990
    How about all of Mastodon's Leviathan? How was that not on this list?
    azrael667
    Because the only thing Moby Dick and Leviathan have in common is the white whale on the cover.
    mchammett
    And what about all the biblical inspired songs like Maiden's Revelation or 'Tallica's Creeping Death. Talking 'bout a bestselling story book.
    paul.radford.90
    Hawkwind- "Chronicle of the black sword" based on the Elric series by Moorcock. Even narrated some parts live for the band!
    bustapr
    All Metallicas Lovecraft songs come to mind for me. As a matter of fact, alot of metallicas best songs are based on books.
    clegtr
    Wasn't Santana's Album "Abraxas" influenced by the Hermann Hesse Novel "Demian"? "Abraxas" is the name of a certain concept of god in that book. In the booklet of the CD version of the album I have, there is even a quote from the book.
    Vash_15
    The Fall of Troy's "You Got A Death Wish, Johnny Truant?" and "The Hol[]y Tape" are based off "House of Leaves"
    gorkyporky
    Why is there no Blind Guardian in here? Literaly all of their songs are about books.
    lafawafa
    Most songs in the album, Chapters, by the band, Adestria, is based on a book.
    Guns N' Chains
    Elvenking - Oakenshield Roughly based on Thorin Oakshield, a character from Tolkien's "The Hobbit". I personally have done this too. Cheesy as hell, but I've tried (still in the process) of writing a song based on the children's book by Maurice Sendak "Where The Wild Things Are". Was always a favorite of my as a kid.