Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Songs and Literature

Songs are often little stories told through music and lyrics. The best examples I can think of are songs like "Take this job and shove it", " "Ode to Billie Joe" or "Phantom 309". Funny, how it is usually country songs that have the best, and most straight forward lyrics. I guess that is because it supposedly is the music of the common man.

What got me thinking about songs and their inspirations is the book Beautiful Maria of my Soul by Oscar Hijuelos. This is a sequel to Hijuelos book, Mambo Kings Plays Songs of Love. That book traces Nestor and Cesar Castillo from poverty in Cuba to having a guest appearance on "I Love Lucy" - playing the song "Beautiful Maria of my Soul." The sequel focuses on the real "Maria Garcia y Cifuentes, the lady behind a song" as the subtitle states.

Both books are very interesting in how they describe Cuba before and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. I loved how "Beautiful Maria" portrays women, especially how a life of poverty and struggle causes Maria to harden her emotions and live life realistically instead of with her emotions. For those of you who know me, I am not a romance fan. Sure the physical characteristics of Nestor, Maria and other characters in Hijuelos are almost cartoon like, typical of romance novels, but the actions and situations they face are more realistic.

There are songs that bring to mind novels or vice versa. The song Stand by Me became a movie based on the novella "The Body" published in Stephen King’s Different Seasons. King often includes lyrics or creates songs for his novels. This story is one of the few King novels that is not really of the horror genre. It is mostly a coming of age story of four pre-teen boys.

Grace Slick tells people to "Go Ask Alice" based on the novel by Anonymous. The novel is a "diary" of a young girl’s introduction to the drug scene in the 1970's.

The first time I heard of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, and thus discovered the novel Lolita, was in Sting’s singing of The Police's hit single "Don’t Stand So Close to Me". Lolita is the tale of a middle-aged man who falls for a young budding teenage girl.

A co-worker reminded me about Bob Dylan and his crusade to free Hurricane Carter in his protest song "Hurricane" Dylan was inspired to write this song after reading Ruben Carter’s autobiography The Sixteenth Round.

Here are some more songs/literature connections to consider:

Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Coleridge / Iron Maiden song of the same name
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte / Kate Bush song of the same name
1984 - George Orwell / David Bowie song of the same name
Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum / Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock - T.S. Eliot / Crash Test Dummies - Afternoons and Coffeespoons (this song also mentions Satre)
I was wondering if there were any other novels out there that features the character a song was based upon, but I couldn’t think of any. And dear readers of this blog I would be interested in finding out if you know of any.

1 comment:

  1. Go Ask Alice was published in 1971. Grace wrote the song in the early 60s.