How poetry has influenced musical pop culture.
Poetry and music have always gone hand in hand, and some of the greatest musicians in the world can also be called fantastic poets. But time and time again artists are inspired by iconic poems; either in fleeting lines, entire verses or the subject matter itself. Here are just a few of our favourite songs which have been influenced by universally adored poetry.
1. The Man Who Sold the World - David Bowie
While the title track from his 1970 album reflects Bowie's struggle with self-identity, the opening verse of the track is based on the opening verse of the 1899 poem Antigonish by Hugh Mearns, from his play The Psycho-ed. The poem is about a ghost that wanders a haunted house, which makes for a startlingly profound thematic comparison between the poem and Bowie's song.
2. Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Iron Maiden
As the title demonstrates, this song from Iron Maiden's Powerslave album is based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's longest poem, first published in 1798. Indeed, reflecting the length of the poem, the song is over 13 minutes long and the lyrics are essentially a rewording of the original piece which is all about the strange experiences of a sailor following a long voyage.
3. Shalott - Emilie Autumn
Alfred Tennyson's Arthurian ballad first published in 1833, The Lady of Shalott, is dramatically retold on Emilie Autumn's 2006 album Opheliac from the point of view of the cursed woman in the story; a noblewoman who is forced to remain in a tower and gaze at the reflection of the window in the mirror, lest she suffer the effects of the curse. But, when her beloved Sir Lancelot passes by her window, she can no longer resist the urge to gaze out of the window, and subsequently dies.
4. If - Joni Mitchell
This adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's 1910 poem of the same name is mostly a slightly reworded version put to music, with the addition of some of Joni Mitchell's own lines. She included it in her 2007 album Shine and it was among one of the first songs she penned after a 9-year break from music, when a friend called her and suggested it.
5. Celebrity Skin - Hole
While the popular 1998 hit wasn't based on a poem as such, it does include a line inspired by a quote from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's The House of Life: A Superscription. "Oh, look at my face / My name is Might-Have-Been / My name is Never Was", Courtney Love sings, echoing Rossetti's "Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been; I am also call'd No-more, Too-late, Farewell."
6. Red Right Hand - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Nick Cave's 1994 hit Red Right Hand from the album Let Love In takes its name from a line in John Milton's Paradise Lost. On his subsequent album Murder Ballads, he reiterates this inspiration on Song of Joy ("In my house he wrote 'His red right hand' / That, I'm told is from Paradise Lost"). The poem is all about the Fall of Man and God's divine vengeance on humanity.
7. Annabel Lee - Stevie Nicks
Named after the 1849 poem by Edgar Allan Poe, Stevie Nicks included this adaptation in her 2011 solo album In Your Dreams, but admitted that she'd actually had a demo of it since she was 17-years-old. It's a rather morbid love song, but made all the more poignant by Stevie Nicks' distinctive vocal.
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