5 Songs With Literary References

So I was listening to the radio the other day, and it was talking about songs with literary references. I immediately began singing Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons, which my the Boyfriend look at me like O.o

Granted, he’s not the most widely read.

It got me thinking about songs with literary references, though. We didn’t listen to the radio long enough to hear any suggestions other listeners came up with, so I set out to see if I could think of five.

1. Love Story by Taylor Swift

An obvious one to start with. Taylor Swift’s Love Story is based on what many consider to be the greatest love story ever. I can’t say I agree that Romeo and Juliet is the greatest love story ever – two teenagers committing suicide after meeting each other two days ago isn’t terribly romantic in the modern context – but if you consider the Elizabethan audience’s belief in love at first sight being divine and true love, you can see how it gained so much ground at the time. Taylor Swift’s song doesn’t really take much from the play beyond the names of its characters and the theme of love, but just that association with Romeo and Juliet is enough to make you think of ultimate romance and true love.

2. Tiger in the Night by Katie Melua

Inspired by William Blake’s The Tyger, this song lifts several of the poem’s lines and reworks them into a love song.

3. These Words by Natasha Bedingfield

Whatever happened to Natasha Bedingfield? She was a bit of a flavour of the month two-or-three hit wonder about ten years ago. Her songs weren’t great, but she did reference Byron, Shelley and Keates in this one. Something to do with hip-hop beats?

4. Dr Seuss vs Shakespeare by Epic Rap Battles

Okay, a little bit of a cheat, but this is so great because it really cleverly references the style and content of the two writers in their raps. I love that Shakespeare raps (for a little while) in Iambic Pentameter, and the opening line from the Cat in the Hat sounds like pure Seuss. The Epic Rap guys have also done Edgar Allan Poe vs Stephen King, and literary characters like Ebeneezer Scrooge face off against real life equivalents. If you’ve been living in an internet hole and haven’t heard of these guys, you should really check out what they do!

5. Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons

Stars hide your fires / these here are my desires

One of the more obscure literary references out there, but ‘stars hide your fires’ is a line from Macbeth. There you go, you learned something today!


One thought on “5 Songs With Literary References

  1. HummingHeart says:

    Really appreciate it when people take notice of the literary references in music, music that is usually disregarded as unauthentic. Mumford and Sons almost always have references from Shakespearean literature, which partly makes them as great as they are. A good post here! 🙂


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