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Songs with Literary References

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I'm looking for songs that specifically reference literary characters, authors, or lines.

I've come up with four so far

Whiter Shade of Pale: "as the miller told his tale" (Canterbury Tales)

Ramble On: "but Gollum and the evil one crept up" (Lord of the Rings trilogy)

Don't Stand So Close to Me: "just like the old man in that book by Nabokov"

Wuthering Heights: "Heathcliff it's me" (Wuthering Heights)

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"I'm like Estella - I like to reel it in and then spit it out, I'm frustrated by your apathy" ~ Alanis Morrisette "All I Really Want" referencing the character Estella in Dickens' Great Expectations.

The whole song "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Starship is about Alice In Wonderland.

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How about this...

BA Robertson- "To Be Or Not To Be"

Now I'm a little shy

I like to stay homeo,

Shakespear's my guy:

Julie and Romeo

Now I have found a girl so dear

She cares not if Will, he was a queer

Who cares not if Hammy made it with his Ma?

To be or not to be my lover?

To me there could not be another

"To be or not to be?"'s my plea

It's as you like it, you know

To me there could not be another

In hardback or in paper cover,

"To be or not to be?"'s my plea

Some like the sun

They'd be a Barbadian.

We think it's fun

Here in Stratford-on-Avion.

Kids go to a disco show

We stay and praise Malvolio,

Who cares if Will

He dressed his guys as chicks?

To be or not to be my lover


We are a couplet, heaven knows,

Undo my doublet baby

And I'll undo your hose.

To be or not to be my lover

It's as you like it you know.

That's just for starters (he said, rashly). This thread could run and run.....

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In fact, here's another BA Robertson song that makes reference to a couple of literary figures (as well as alot of historical ones...)

"Bang Bang" - BA Robertson

The strait-jacket of true love's fine - bang bang

If you're Houdini in your spare time - bang bang

Lord Nel and Lady Hamilton they fought for love

When he come home from the war he gave her what for love

Bang Bang, The mighty fall

Bang Bang, when love has called

Vampire friends desire to lust - fang fang

They fall on necks then fall in love - pang pang

The Marquis de Sade was happy with a stroke of love

Sherlock Holmes alone preferred a little toke of love

Bang bang, the mighty fall

Bang bang, when love has called

Bang bang, the mighty fall

Tony and Cleo struck out for the freedom down Egypt's way,

But Caesar had squeezed her in Rome on his quilt for a day...

Hey hey

Now Anthony got really angry

About old Caesar's hanky panky,

She told em she would use'em,

And boy did she abuse'em...

Fall in love and blew'em away

Bang bang, the mighty fall

Bang bang, when love has called

Bang bang, the mighty fall

Bang bang

And Sam and Delilah they both we should file under fool...

'Cos when the temple start to crumble,

Sammy for his comb did fumble.

Life was in a ruin, she loved Johnny Fruin...

Fall in love and blew em away

Bang bang, when love has called

Bang bang, the mighty fall

Bang bang, when love has called

Bang bang ....

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1. The Beatles - "I'm So Tired"

"And curse Sir Walter Raleigh (Ralegh), he was such a stupid git."

Sir Walter did some writing, so I suppose this counts.

2. Jethro Tull - "Baker St. Muse (Crash-Barrier Waltzer)"

"Strange pas de deux, his Romeo to her Juliet.

Her sleeping draught, his poisoned regret."

3. Tom Waits - "Alice"

Pretty much the whole album "Alice" is based somewhat on "Alice In Wonderland".

4. Damien Rice - "Amie"

"Amie, come sit on my wall and read me the story of 'O'".

Story of 'O':


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"Shakespeare, he´s in the alley" ("Stuck inside of Mobile...", Dylan)

"Joan was quizical, studied pataphysical science int he home" ("Maxwell´s Silver Hammer", Beatles) "Pataphysics" was a science invented by Alfred Jarry for "Ubu Roi"

"Rome and Juliet", Dire Straits.

"Desolation Row", Bob Dylan, there are some...

They're selling postcards of the hanging

They're painting the passports brown

The beauty parlor is filled with sailors

The circus is in town

Here comes the blind commissioner

They've got him in a trance

One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker

The other is in his pants

And the riot squad they're restless

They need somewhere to go

As Lady and I look out tonight

From Desolation Row

Cinderella, she seems so easy

"It takes one to know one," she smiles

And puts her hands in her back pockets

Bette Davis style

And in comes Romeo, he's moaning

"You Belong to Me I Believe"

And someone says," You're in the wrong place, my friend

You better leave"

And the only sound that's left

After the ambulances go

Is Cinderella sweeping up

On Desolation Row

Now the moon is almost hidden

The stars are beginning to hide

The fortunetelling lady

Has even taken all her things inside

All except for Cain and Abel

And the hunchback of Notre Dame

Everybody is making love

Or else expecting rain

And the Good Samaritan, he's dressing

He's getting ready for the show

He's going to the carnival tonight

On Desolation Row

Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window

For her I feel so afraid

On her twenty-second birthday

She already is an old maid

To her, death is quite romantic

She wears an iron vest

Her profession's her religion

Her sin is her lifelessness

And though her eyes are fixed upon

Noah's great rainbow

She spends her time peeking

Into Desolation Row

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood

With his memories in a trunk

Passed this way an hour ago

With his friend, a jealous monk

He looked so immaculately frightful

As he bummed a cigarette

Then he went off sniffing drainpipes

And reciting the alphabet

Now you would not think to look at him

But he was famous long ago

For playing the electric violin

On Desolation Row

Dr. Filth, he keeps his world

Inside of a leather cup

But all his sexless patients

They're trying to blow it up

Now his nurse, some local loser

She's in charge of the cyanide hole

And she also keeps the cards that read

"Have Mercy on His Soul"

They all play on penny whistles

You can hear them blow

If you lean your head out far enough

From Desolation Row

Across the street they've nailed the curtains

They're getting ready for the feast

The Phantom of the Opera

A perfect image of a priest

They're spoonfeeding Casanova

To get him to feel more assured

Then they'll kill him with self-confidence

After poisoning him with words

And the Phantom's shouting to skinny girls

"Get Outa Here If You Don't Know

Casanova is just being punished for going

To Desolation Row"

Now at midnight all the agents

And the superhuman crew

Come out and round up everyone

That knows more than they do

Then they bring them to the factory

Where the heart-attack machine

Is strapped across their shoulders

And then the kerosene

Is brought down from the castles

By insurance men who go

Check to see that nobody is escaping

To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero's Neptune

The Titanic sails at dawn

And everybody's shouting

"Which Side Are You On?"

And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot

Fighting in the captain's tower

While calypso singers laugh at them

And fishermen hold flowers

Between the windows of the sea

Where lovely mermaids flow

And nobody has to think too much

About Desolation Row

Yes, I received your letter yesterday

(About the time the door knob broke)

When you asked how I was doing

Was that some kind of joke?

All these people that you mention

Yes, I know them, they're quite lame

I had to rearrange their faces

And give them all another name

Right now I can't read too good

Don't send me no more letters no

Not unless you mail them

From Desolation Row

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I see... It was written by Jacques Brel in 1961 and translated into English by Rod Mkeun, who also translated his song "If you go away" (Ne me quitte pas). Link Wray plays guitar on Terry Jack´s version... Bowie also sang another Brel´s song, "Amsterdam", but I don´t know who made the translation.

In any case, I consider Jacques Brel as a wonderful French (though he was from Belgium, but he wrote in French) poet.

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This is all very well, but does "Seasons In The Sun" contain any literary references, whether sung in English, French , Yiddish, Swahili???? :confused:

In the meantime The Cure's "Killing An Arab" is based on that classic of French existentialist literature, "L'Etranger" by Albert Camus. Here's the lyric...

"Killing An Arab" by The Cure

Standing on the beach

With a gun in my hand

Staring at the sea

Staring at the sand

Staring down the barrel

At the arab on the ground

I can see his open mouth

But I hear no sound

I’m alive

I’m dead

I’m the stranger

Killing an arab

I can turn

And walk away

Or I can fire the gun

Staring at the sky

Staring at the sun

Whichever I chose

It amounts to the same

Absolutely nothing

I’m alive

I’m dead

I’m the stranger

Killing an arab

I feel the steel butt jump

Smooth in my hand

Staring at the sea

Staring at the sand

Staring at myself

Reflected in the eyes

Of the dead man on the beach

The dead man on the beach

I’m alive

I’m dead

I’m the stranger

Killing an arab

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