28 Songs Inspired By Books

by Vincent Salera 20 Nov 2017

I always say, a great song tells a great story. Did you know that many of your favorite songs were inspired by books?

Katy Perry has said that her song “Firework” was inspired by the book On the Road by Jack Kerouac, she said, “I want to be a firework, both living and dead. My boyfriend showed me a paragraph out of Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road, about people that are buzzing and fizzing and full of life and never say a commonplace thing. They shoot across the sky like a firework and make people go, ‘Ahhh.’ I guess that making people go ‘ahhh’ is kind of like my motto.”

Stevie Nicks bought Triad by Mary Leader at an airport bookstore and thought the name Rhiannon was pretty enough to have a song in its honour.

The Bugles band member Trevor Horn says the hit song Video Killed The Radio Star was inspired by J. G. Ballard’s short story ‘The Sound Sweep’. The story is about a mute boy who meets an opera singer living in poverty now that her profession is no longer in demand due to the rise of ultrasonic music. Check out some of my favorites below, there are many more out there waiting to be discovered.

1. 1984 by David Bowie
“I know the impetus for Diamond Dogs was both Metropolis and 1984,” Bowie told Rolling Stone in 1987.

2. A Spaceman Came Traveling by Chris de Burgh
The book made him think “what if the star of Bethlehem was a space craft and what if there is a benevolent being or entity in the universe keeping an eye on the world and our foolish things that we do to each other?”

3. The Raven by Lou Reed
Lou Reed was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe when he produced one of his most challenging and original works to date.

4. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
The song is based on Emily Bronte’s classic book of the same name and tells the same story as the book.

5. Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones
Jagger stated that he was influenced by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita (which had just appeared in English translation in 1967).

6. November Rain by Guns N’ Roses
Both the lyrics and video are based on a short story by Del James called Without You. The latest version of the book contains an intro by Axl Rose, who wrote: “Del James has a personal knowledge of most of the situations he writes about, and has a love of the gutter from having been there.”

7. White As Snow by U2
Bono says the song focused on a soldier’s last thoughts as he dies from his wounds after reading William Golding’s 1956 novel Pincher Martin. The book revolves around Christopher Hadley “Pincher” Martin, who is the sole survivor of a military torpedo destroyer which sank in the North Atlantic Ocean.

8. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now by Celine Dion
This song was written by Jim Steinman who was inspired by the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

9. Brave New World by Iron Maiden
The song is based on the 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley about a futuristic world where everyone is happy and controlled by a totalitarian system that manipulates all of humanity’s feelings and movements.

10. Animal Farm by Hazel O’Connor
The song is a retelling of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

11. Mind Games by John Lennon
This song was inspired by a book John Lennon read called Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space. Written by Robert Masters and Jean Houston, The book explains how people can improve themselves on various levels by the power of the mind.

12. A Dream Within A Dream by The Alan Parsons Project
The song was inspired by the 1849 poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

13. The Piper by ABBA
This song was inspired by Stephen King’s novel The Stand. The lyrics revolve around the rise of a fascist dictator. Bjorn said, “The lyrics deal with the fear that there will come a time when people will want such a leader again.”

14. Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel
The song was inspired by the 1972 Richard Adams novel, Watership Down, which tells the story of a small group of rabbits that were unhappy in the warren they lived in and decided to break out. Several publishers initially rejected the story before it was published by Rex Collings Ltd, in 1978, an animated film was produced based on the book.

15. Brand New Day by Sting
Based on Rodman Philbrick’s young adult novel Freak the Mighty. It tells the story about two children with physical and mental challenges who come together as heroes.

16. China in Your Hand by T’Pau
The song was inspired by a line from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…”Don’t push too hard, your dreams are china in your hand.”

17. Firework by Katy Perry
Katy Perry has said that her song “Firework” was inspired by the book On the Road by Jack Kerouac, she said, “I want to be a firework, both living and dead. My boyfriend showed me a paragraph out of Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road, about people that are buzzing and fizzing and full of life and never say a commonplace thing. They shoot across the sky like a firework and make people go, ‘Ahhh.’ I guess that making people go ‘ahhh’ is kind of like my motto.”

18. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
The Yellow Brick Road was inspired by the book The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

19. Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac
Stevie Nicks bought Triad by Mary Leader at an airport bookstore and thought the name Rhiannon was pretty enough to have a song in its honour.

20. Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles
The Bugles band member Trevor Horn says the hit song Video Killed The Radio Star was inspired by J. G. Ballard’s short story ‘The Sound Sweep’. The story is about a mute boy who meets an opera singer living in poverty now that her profession is no longer in demand due to the rise of ultrasonic music. Check out some of my favorites below, there are many more out there waiting to be discovered.

21. Paranoid Android by Radiohead
The song title is a reference to Marvin the Paranoid Android in the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

22. The Invisible Man by Queen
This song was written by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor after reading the book The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Rumor has it that the beat came to him while in the bathtub.

23. Whip It by Devo
The lyrics were written to be an imitation of Thomas Pynchon’s parodies in his book Gravity’s Rainbow.

24. White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
This song was written by Grace Slick, who based the lyrics on Lewis Carroll’s book Alice In Wonderland.

25. The Christmas Shoes by NewSong
The song tells the story of a little boy buying shoes one Christmas Eve for his sick mother so she’ll look good if she “meets Jesus tonight.” It was also inspired by a Christmas story that St. Louis-based radio personality DC Chymes found on the Internet. Several books that were inspired by the song have spawned TV movies as well.

26. Banga by Patti Smith
The song was inspired by Pontius Pilate’s dog in Mikhail Bulgakov’s satirical novel called The Master And Margarita.

27. Bell Jar by The Bangles
The song was inspired by the book, The Bell Jar, the only novel written by the Sylvia Plath.

28. The Ghost Of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen
Tom Joad is a character in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes Of Wrath.

Vincent Salera

Founder CEO/CCO @ World's Best Story™ amplifier of creativity & fun!