Friday, 16 October 2015

Inspiration: When music meets Literature

I don’t know about you but I always find it pleasing when artists of different mediums inspire each other. What is extraordinary, though, is when a song of a couple of minutes manages to capture all the drama, excitement and emotion of a book that might take you a couple of weeks to read.  Here I’ve gathered together a list of songs inspired by all things literary. I hope they inspire you…

Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

A bit obvious I admit, but still. I find it incredible that a 4.29 song can get to the core of the emotions of a full length classic like Bronte’s. Told from Cathy’s point of view, this song’s dramatic, sexually charged lyrics are made more theatrical by Bush’s electrifying and strange vocals. What’s even more remarkable is that Bush hadn’t even read the book when she wrote this. And she was only 18. And it only took a couple of hours. Don’t some people’s genius make you feel sick?

Cemetery Gates – The Smiths

Morrissey isn’t afraid of letting everyone know how well read he is and thank goodness for that. One of the reasons Morrissey’s writing is so rich is that he takes his cue from images set up by other writers. For instance, he’s often lifted lines from Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste Of Honey. In this song, he tackles the complexities of plagiarism with tongue firmly in cheek. I think what I like best about this is the image it sets up of two friends and outsiders walking through a graveyard contemplating life, death and poetry. Instantly relatable for the bookish among us.

What the Water Gave Me – Florence and the Machine

Dreamy, poetical and lulling.  This song is in part inspired by the suicide of Virginia Woolf particularly so with the line ‘Pockets full of stones’. There are echoes of Ophelia here too.

Jamaica Inn – Tori Amos

Slight confession: I haven’t read Jamaica Inn. Which is ridiculous because I’m a big Du Maurier fan and this song is a great advertisement for the setting of the book. In this song, Amos delicately weaves the dramatic Cornish landscape with the romantic turmoil felt by the song’s heroine mirroring Du Maurier’s technique in the novel. The lyrics are earthy, feminine and show the power of delicate, gentle writing.

Paperback Writer – The Beatles

A song that captures the frustrations of the unsolicited submission. The lyrics take the form of a writer’s letter to a publisher with the writer prepared to go to any means i.e. ‘make it longer’ or ‘change it round’. I think this song marks a change in the writing style of Lennon/McCartney- inspiration was coming from different directions.  There should be more songs about the publishing industry. 

The Typewriter – Leroy Anderson

If you ever need cheering up on a slow writing/study/work day pop this delight on. You’ll feel like you’re in Populaire.

What are your favourite songs inspired by great literature? What novel, play or poem do you think would make a good song?

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