Songs Inspired by Movies

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Filmmakers often look to music for inspiration and the result has occasionally extended to entire narratives based on a single song. The reverse is equally true. Many songs you love were inspired in one way or another by those flickering images on the silver screen.

E=MC2 by Big Audio Dynamite

Following the collapse of the Clash, Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite and produced this song inspired by the iconoclastic cinematic vision of director Nicholas Roeg. This was one of the first non-rap songs to include heavy sampling as part of its fabric of sound and that sampling comes from Roeg’s rock and roll film “Performance.” The Roeg fan will also tie lyrics about a Senator and baseball with the title to come up with references to Roeg’s movie “Insignificance.”

Tom Joad by Woody Guthrie

Some songs get inspired by a filmmaker while others get a kick in the pants from a particular movie. Listening to Guthrie sing “Tom Joad” it is easy enough to imagine him walking out of the movie theater showing “The Grapes of Wrath” in a daze that led to an outburst of creativity. “Tom Joad” is just as informative about the events that take place in John Ford’s film as any written synopsis, but you get the added emphasis of Guthrie’s knowing voice which serves to bring the characters to life as he tells you pretty much the entire narrative.

Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Sometimes a song’s inspiration has precious little to do with what the song becomes as part of the cultural zeitgeist that transforms it into a document. “Bad Moon Rising” was released to an America being ripped apart by clashes over everything from the acceptable hair length at snobby private schools to the Vietnam War. Songwriter John Fogerty asserts that a mostly forgotten 1941 film titled “The Devil and Daniel Webster” was the inspiration for the title, lyrical content and general feeling of facing up to destiny and fate.

Walk This Way: Aerosmith

Movies can inspire songs that have already been partially written. Aerosmith had the music in mind for what would become their defining tune when a break from the studio resulted in watching the movie “Young Frankenstein.” Maybe it was drugs or maybe it was the late hour or maybe the exhaustion of putting together an album, but for some reason the scene where Igor tells young Dr. Frankenstein to walk this way—hunched over and with a cane for support—struck members of the band as not only particularly hilarious, but perfect for the title and lyrics of that musical composition they were working on.