10 songs inspired by literature

Art inspires art. This is one of the ideas behind the Mind’s Eye series of books that I’m involved in, where we write stories and poems inspired by photographs. Music has also been an inspiration for me in my novels and short stories.

Massive Wagons’ latest single, which I featured on the blog this week, was based on the 1851 novel “Moby-Dick”, by Herman Melville.


This got me thinking about all the songs that I’ve heard about that were inspired by literature. Here are some of the best.

Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” was based upon the 1847 novel of the same name by Emily Brontë.

Motorcycle Emptiness, by Manic Street Preachers – S.E. Hinton’s “Rumble Fish” (1975)

The idea for “Wild Boys”, by Duran Duran, came from the 1971 novel “The Wild Boys” by William S. Burroughs.

The Cure’s “Charlotte Sometimes” – from the book of the same name by Penelope Farmer (1969).

Quite a few of Metallica’s songs have been inspired by books, including “For Whom The Bell Tolls” (Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel of the same name).

Another band who have written quite a few songs based on books is Iron Maiden. The concept of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” came to bassist Steve Harris after he read Orson Scott Card‘s “Seventh Son”.

A few of Anthrax’s songs have also been inspired by books. “Misery Loves Company” was written about Stephen King’s novel “Misery”.


“1984” by David Bowie was inspired by the George Orwell novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

The lyrics and the video for “November Rain”, by Guns N’ Roses, are based on a short story by Del James called Without You. The story is part of a collection called The Language Of Fear



  1. A few others:

    Killing an Arab by The Cure is based on The Outsider by Albert Camus.
    Song from Under the Floorboards by Magazine is basically a mash up of Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky and Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
    Atrocity Exhibition by Joy Division takes its title from the novel of the same name by JG Ballard

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome! I didn’t know about those ones. I love that so many songs are inspired by books 🙂 I’d be thrilled if someone wrote a song inspired by one of mine!


  2. ‘All nightmare long’ by Metallica is based on a Lovecraftian short story ‘Hounds of Tindalos’ by Frank Belknap Long. It’s well worth downloading too as its a cool, chilling read.


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