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With wedding season upon us, there’s no denying that love and love songs are in the air. So for those couples with a bookish inclination, we've pulled together some of the best lit-infused songs that are perfect for the reception, the first dance, or even just a romantic Spotify playlist. Here’s a list of love songs bookworms are sure to enjoy, with their best literary lyrics.
From their 1999 album, 69 Love Songs, this is one of Magnetic Fields’ most traditional and sincere love songs. That said, it still contains Stephin Merritt’s signature tongue-in-cheek lyrical style, opening with the lines,
“The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing”
before he goes on to croon a more romantic refrain:
“But I, I love it when you read to me
And you, you can read me anything.”
Named for Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Bush wrote the song at age 18, capturing the turbulent and passionate relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy in her plaintive lyrics and soaring vocals:
“Ooh, it gets dark! It gets lonely,
On the other side from you.
I pine a lot. I find the lot
Falls through without you.
I'm coming back, love.”
One gorgeous song; many gorgeous versions to choose from. Cohen wrote and originally recorded this one in 1984, with lyrics based on biblical stories David and Bathsheba, as well as Sampson and Delilah. Ten years later, Jeff Buckley covered the song on his debut album, and many argue it is the superior version. But the last thirty years have seen versions from numerous others, including Bono, Rufus Wainwright, Regina Spektor, Neil Diamond, and Bob Dylan.
You shouldn’t expect a straight up love song from good ol’ Moz, and that’s not exactly what he delivers with “Now My Heart is Full” whose chorus name checks gangsters in Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock: Dallow, Spicer, Pinkie, and Cubitt. Regardless, the song’s main refrain is sincere, heartfelt, and unapologetic:
“Now my heart is full
Now my heart is full
And I just can't explain
So I won't even try to”
Perhaps you think a song inspired by reading Anne Frank’s diary doesn’t belong on this list, but I’ve actually been to a wedding where this played during the first dance. It’s easy to see why when you consider the catchy melody and Jeff Magnum’s lovely lyrics:
“What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen”
Inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this song also graces the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of the classic novel. It’s just the thing for a wedding where the bride will be wearing a black dress (for the record, I’ve been to one of those, too). The lyrics speak of a love greater than death, as Lennox croons:
“For there is in all the world no greater love than mine.”
This Brit-pop ballad gets its opening line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is The Night, a title that was in turn a quotation from Keats' “Ode to a Nightingale.” So you get a literary reference within a reference:
“Tender is the night
Lying by your side
Tender is the touch
Of someone that you love too much”
This song was inspired by and named after Salman Rushdie’s novel of the same name. The book loosely retells the Orpheus and Euridice myth set against an alternate history of rock ‘n’ roll, so once again, the result a layered literary homage. In fact, the song credits Rushdie as its writer, because its lyrics were taken directly from his text. A sample:
“Let me love you true, let me rescue you
Let me lead you to where two roads meet”
Yeah, so maybe it’s not cool to like Enya. But you know what? This is a beautiful song, so let’s all stop being too cool for school and bask in its dreaminess. And the lyrics, which speak of a journey, provide a perfect metaphor for marriage:
“Find a new world across a wide ocean
This way became my journey
This day brings together
Far and Away”
This band takes their name from a popular French novel about a boy and his dog living in a mountain village in the French Alps. The song is a bit more upbeat than what a newlywed couple’s might select for their first dance. Nevertheless, it’s a fine choice if you’re a fan of this twee Scottish indie-pop band, with a sweet opening refrain:
“If you find yourself caught in love
Say a prayer to the man above
Thank him for everything you know
You should thank him for every breath you blow”
We've collected all these literary ballads into a youtube playlist for your listening pleasure. Let us know which one is your favorite literary love song at @QuirkBooks on Twitter!