Music & Words: Literary Songs Vol. 1

During my undergrad I took course called Literature for Young Adults and in one project was introduced to the balance of literature in music. In particular, a classmate put together a soundtrack for one of the books we read, the title of course eluding me now as more than five years has gone by. Not the first time it’s been done, there’s such a unique connection between reading and music that I’m always delighted to hear songs praising a work or author or learning the meaning of the song itself is from a beloved work! For today’s post, let’s explore the this month’s 5 literary songs!

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‘One’ by Metallica inspired by the film Johnny Got His Gun (1971) — which is based on the novel of the same name by Dalton Trumbo (1938).

Theme: Anti-war

Concept behind song: the band claims the film version of the novel had similar themes to the song they were writing. Mind you, the novel is about a soldier who loses all of his limbs, can not speak nor hear after being blown up. The rest of the story is inside his head as he tries to figure out where he is while trying to hold on to his sanity. It seems the song is awfully identical to Trumbo’s tale, however with an anti-war theme. Sadly, the fate of Johnny has been all too real for survivors of war. Listen to the full song below:

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Ramble On’ by Led Zeppelin, inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings (1954)

Concept behind the song: this song was directly influenced by Tolkien’s work which you can see by the lyrics I’ve included above. Plus this is just generally a great song to tune into. Listen to it now:

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Oscar Wilde’ by Company of Thieves; just plain inspired by Wilde himself and his give no fucks ways about how the world felt about him, something which resonated with the band.

Though Company of Thieves didn’t do much else after a hit or two, this is definitely their strongest song in terms of beat and concept. Click play to hear how much of Wilde’s life was immortalized by the band.

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‘1984’ by David Bowie (and released in 1974) with inspiration from the novel of the same name by George Orwell (1949).


For Whom The Bell Tolls’ by Metallica from the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway (originally published in 1940).

Just saying, Metallica is killing it with literary songs! This particular song describes a scene in chapter 27. If you are unaware of this, you really should pick up this book! In the image above, I put the entire lyrics. Listen to the full song to hear more references to the novel.

Check in next month for literary songs and tell us ones you love!

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