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12 Literary References in Music (Where Led Zeppelin and Emily Bronte Meet Flannery O’Connor and Phish)
Phish – “Prince Caspian”
This cut of off Phish’s Billy Breathes references the C.S. Lewis classic with by the same name. Repetitive lines of “Oh, to be Prince Caspian, afloat upon the waves,” The song has few lyrics that explain a wish for the life of the Lewis novel’s main character. [We could also try to make the connection between the Phish song and German philosopher Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but yes, we know that the song isn’t an original Phish tune. We just wanted to compare Trey to Nietzsche’s ‘Ubermensch’].
Bruce Springsteen – “The Ghost of Tom Joad”
The Ghost of Tom Joad is Springsteen’s 11th studio album. The track features strong references to John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath along with other historical and political references. Woody Guthrie wrote a song about Joad long before Springsteen, however. The song was titled “The Ballad of Tom Joad” and set to the music of “John Hardy.” Rage Against the Machine even took the liberty to put of their version of the song.
Sufjan Stevens – “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
Sufjan Stevens references Flannery O’Connor’s 1953 short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” O’Connor tells a story about a family on a road trip to Florida: the family loses control of the car and, when help comes, three armed men, one called “The Misfit,” murder the family. Stevens tell a similar story, but from The Misfit’s perspective, rather than O’Connor’s point of view of the grandmother.
Tori Amos – “Horses”
While Tori Amos makes references to author Neil Gaiman on all of her albums, the line “and maybe you’ll find me when Neil makes me a tree” in the Horses portion of the opening track on Boys For Pele actually inspired a literary reaction, wherein Gaiman created a tree character in his graphic novel Stardust that is very obviously meant to be Tori.
Jefferson Starship – “White Rabbit”
Fitting with their trippy sound, Jefferson Starship’s “White Rabbit” is an obvious yet brilliant homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The clear and familiar imagery used in the lyrics explain Alice’s adventures as she falls down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. The musical structure thoroughly compliments the lyrics to make for a truly psychedelic tune. Also see Tom Wait’s album Alice for more interpretations of the Lewis Carroll classic.
Kate Bush – “Wuthering Heights”
Kate’s first single off her debut album The Kick Inside interprets (the Emily Bronte novel. The song was a #1 hit in the UK and was accompanied by two music videos (the red dress version and the white dress version).