Reading Month with Muse, Kendrick Lamar, Katy Perry

From Coldplay's "Adventure Of A Lifetime" and Kendrick Lamar's "The Blacker The Berry" to Katy Perry's "Firework" and Muse's "Resistance," these nine songs were all inspired by books
  • GRAMMY-winning/-nominated songs inspired by books
March 16, 2017 -- 7:00 am PDT
GRAMMY.com

Great works of art often inspire each other. So it's no surprise that a number of well-known songs glean their ideas from literature. Look no further than Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls," Elvis Costello's "Everyday I Write The Book" or Of Mice & Men's band name. Even the soundtrack for the documentary One Fast Move Or I'm Gone, written by Jay Farrar and Death Cab For Cutie's Benjamin Gibbard, draws heavily from a literary source: Jack Kerouac's Big Sur.

In celebration of National Reading Month, we've collected nine examples of songs by GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists that made the leap from the written page to sheet music.

Coldplay goes international for women with "Adventure Of A Lifetime"

While "Adventure Of A Lifetime" was rumored to be about a certain actress, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin told UK news outlet The Sun it wasn't so much about one girl in particular, but rather "about three billion of them." He went on to point out that the song's initial inspiration came from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's 2009 book, Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide. There's a nod to the book's title in the lyrics as well: "I'm a dream that died by light of day/Gonna hold up half the sky."

 

Elvis gets the Beck treatment on "Blue Moon"

After reading Peter Guralnick's two-volume biography set on Elvis Presley, Beck decided to take what originally had been just a demo and include it on his 2014 Album Of The Year GRAMMY-winning album Morning Phase. In homage to the King's iconic version of "Blue Moon," Beck's track shares the same title. On NPR's "All Songs Considered," he explained, "['Blue Moon'] just encapsulates him at the beginning — this sort of purity.  When you read the book, you really get a sense of who he was at the beginning and then at the end."

Watch: Beck wins Album Of The Year at the 57th GRAMMY Awards

Katy Perry buzzes and fizzes with Kerouac-inspired "Firework"

"Firework," one of Katy Perry's biggest hits, has a surprising literary connection. "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," Perry told Billboard  in 2010. "I want to be a firework, both living and dead." The diamond-certified song struck a chord with listeners and earned Perry a GRAMMY nomination for Record Of The Year for 2011.

 

Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" and obsession

A track from Celine Dion's Falling Into You, which won Album Of The Year for 1996, "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" was written by Jim Steinman. The GRAMMY-winning producer/songwriter cited Emily Brontë's classic Wuthering Heights as the inspiration behind the song, with a very Heathcliff twist. "It's about obsession," wrote Steinman. "It says that, at any point in somebody's life, when they loved somebody strongly enough and that person returns, a certain touch, a certain physical gesture can turn them from being defiant and disgusted with this person to being subservient again."

 

Timbaland channels vampires with "Morning After Dark"

Timbaland may be one of the last people expected to draw inspiration from the popular Twilight book series written by Stephenie Meyer, but look no further than "Morning After Dark," featuring Nelly Furtado. The GRAMMY winner told MTV News that the track from his 2009 album, Timbaland Presents Shock Value II, "fits everything going on with the vampire theme. It fits everything with Twilight." This influence may have something to do with realizing the key demographic for his music: "I know 75 percent [of the people who buy my album] are women who … watch 'Desperate Housewives' and all those others. I did this research."

 

Joe Satriani shreds Kurt Vonnegut on "Ice 9"

On the surface, the instrumental guitar genre seems heavy on histrionics and light on substance. But guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani has made a 30-plus-year career out of channeling inspiration from various sources into his lyrical instrumental compositions. Case in point: The frigid "Ice 9" from 1987's GRAMMY-nominated Surfing With The Alien. Satriani based the title and his guitar tracks around the name of the deadly substance in Kurt Vonnegut's classic 1963 novel, Cat's Cradle. "[With 'Ice 9'] I was just thinking about something so insidious and cold and hoping of things tightening up and becoming ice," Satriani told Music Radar.

Muse stage "Resistance" to dystopia

For the title track of 2009's The Resistance, rock band Muse channel the dystopian world of George Orwell's seminal novel 1984. "I read the book when I was at school and I only really took in the political side of it," frontman Matthew Bellamy told NME. "But I read it again and the romance side moved me." The dark romantic tones permeate "Resistance," which sets the theme for the rest of this 2015 Best Rock Album GRAMMY winner: "Love is our resistance/They'll keep us apart and they won't stop breaking us down."

 

Miranda Lambert volunteers as tribute for "Run Daddy Run"

GRAMMY-winning country singer/songwriter Miranda Lambert co-wrote "Run Daddy Run" with Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe for the 2012 The Hunger Games movie soundtrack, but its true inspiration came from the original novel by Suzanne Collins. "Angaleena had read The Hunger Games and talked me and Miranda into reading it, and we all fell in love with it," Monroe told The Hollywood Reporter. "We were so inspired by the book and the story that it told, so we wrote [the song] and forced our way onto the soundtrack." As for the songwriter who most resembles the book's heroine Katniss Everdeen? It has to be Lambert, who is a bow hunter.

Kendrick Lamar tackles racism on "The Blacker The Berry"

Alongside a scathing takedown of racism in America, Kendrick Lamar's "The Blacker The Berry," featured on his 2015 Best Rap Album-winning To Pimp A Butterfly, also turns its focus inward and comments on discrimination within the black community: "So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?/When gang banging make me kill a n***** blacker than me?/Hypocrite!" Prejudice within the black community was also the theme of Wallace Thurman's novel of the same name, a groundbreaking work when it was published in 1929.

What's your favorite book-inspired song? Let us know in the comments

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