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Shakespeare's Birthday

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“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” – Blue Öyster Cult
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet inspires lyrics celebrating a love that conquers everything – even death. This track first appeared on the band’s 1976 album Agents of Fortune and was rereleased in 2005.

 

“Summon the Devil” – Lana Lane
From the album Lady Macbeth, a rock concept album that tells Shakespeare’s Macbeth from Lady Macbeth’s perspective, this song features lyrics attributed to the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare’s text.

 

“Get Over It” – Eagles
While the song itself isn’t inspired by Shakespeare, the lyrics do paraphrase a line from Henry VI, Part 2: “The more I think about it, old Billy was right / Let’s kill all the lawyers, kill ’em tonight.”

 

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Romeo” – Sammy Hagar
“The Red Rocker” ’s Romeo falls in love with a “Blue Jean Juliet” in this song from the singer’s pre-Van Halen days. Some of the lyrics also nod to Jacque’s speech in As You Like In, where “all the world’s a stage.”   

 

“Prospero’s Speech” – Loreena McKennitt
The soprano famous for her Celtic-influenced melodies uses Shakespeare’s original text from The Tempest as the lyrics in this beautiful vocal arrangement.

 

“Cordelia” – The Tragically Hip
Canadian rockers allude to King Lear’s doomed heroine in the title and the Scottish play in the lyrics of this guitar-driven ballad: “screaming out Macbeth just to see how much bad luck you really get.”

 

“Be Still My Beating Heart” – Sting
This song pays tribute to the idea of emotion trumping reason, a common theme in Shakespeare, and appears on the album Nothing Like the Sun, which won Best British Album honors at the 1988 Brit Awards.

 

“What A Piece of Work Is Man” – The Cast of Hair
One of Hamlet’s most famous speeches gets a "tribal rock-love" makeover in this showtune taken from the revolutionary musical, which first debuted in 1967 and was re-launched on Broadway earlier this month.  

 

“Rap Othello” – The Reduced Shakespeare Company
The renowned California-based improv troupe adds a backbeat and a playful spin to Shakespeare’s dark tale of jealousy and betrayal.

 

“If Music Be the Food of Love” – Samantha Fox
Duke Orsino’s lovesick lines from Twelfth Night provide literary inspiration for Fox’s bubbly, Brit-pop vocals.   

 

“King Nothing” – Metallica
While no Shakespearean character is mentioned by name, it’s easy to draw a parallel between the bleak lyrics and the tragic title characters in Macbeth and King Lear.

 

“Desolation Row (live)” – Bob Dylan
Romeo and Ophelia appear with other literary characters in this mournful, acoustic melody that is ranked among Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” at #185. (Dylan also holds the #1 spot for “Like a Rolling Stone.”)

 

“Romeo Had Juliette” – Lou Reed
A loose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in contemporary NYC appears on Reed’s 1999 album, Lou Reed: The Definitive Collection. Reed, a pioneering guitarist and lyricist, was a founding member of The Velvet Underground with John Cale.

 
Monogrammist T.E. Ophelia. Oil on canvas, late 19th century



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