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Any Major Shakespeare

April 22nd, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments



No, please don’t run away — this will be fun! As Stephano said to Caliban in The Tempest: “We’ll not run!” What we have here is a mix of songs that include phrases introduced to the English language by William Shakespeare, the Leonard Cohen of his day.

Shakespeare, whose anniversary of birth and death we officially mark on April 23, coined dozens of phrases and words (or, at least, was the first to use them in surviving writings). As a coiner of popular phrases, Shakespeare is second only to the Bible. So it is to be expected that common phrases find their way into the lyrics of pop songs.

This mix concerns itself with phrases — “Heart of gold”, “Break the ice”, “The wheel is come full circle”, “Give the devil his due”, “In a pickle”, et cetera — rather than with single words. And there’s enough for another mix.

Single words alone would yield a never-ending number of compilations. One site counted 422 words, many of which we still use today; others count as many as 1,700. Such words include: accommodation, amazement, auspicious, baseless, castigate, countless, courtship, critical, dishearten, dwindle, eventful, exposure, generous, gloomy, gnarled, hurry, impartial, laughable, lonely, majestic, misplaced, monumental, obscene, premeditated, radiance, sanctimonious, submerge, suspicious…

This mix works well as just an eclectic sequence of songs, finding themselves bundled together by the random circumstance of linguistics and literature, but it’s very enjoyable nonetheless. And I imagine that English teachers might get a spark of an idea from this mix, getting their pupils to spot the Shakespeare in pop. I counsel caution with the Billy Holiday track, an old blues number from the 1920s which has lyrics one would not sing today…

To quote Caliban in The Tempest: “Wilt thou be pleased to hearken once againe to the mixt’re of CD-R lengthe, with home-rhymeth cov’rages, I made to thee?” Passworde be founde in ye comments.


1. The Beach Boys – Fun, Fun, Fun (1964 – “Wild-goose chase” from Romeo and Juliet)

2. Moby Grape – Come In The Morning (1968 – “Come what may” from Macbeth)

3. Colin Blunstone – Lovelight (1980 – “This denoted a foregone conclusion” from Othello)

4. Little River Band – Full Circle (1981 – “The wheel is come full circle” from King Lear)

5. Gallagher And Lyle – Heart On My Sleeve (1976 – “Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve” from Othello)

6. Neil Young – Heart Of Gold (1972 – “A heart of gold” from Henry V)

7. The Waterboys – Love And Death (1993 – “With bated breath” from The Merchant of Venice)

8. INXS – Disappear (1990 – “All our yesterdays” from Macbeth)

9. The Darkness – Love Is Only A Feeling (2003 – “The be-all and the end-all” from Macbeth)

10. James Dean Bradfield – Still A Long Way To Go (2006 – “Cold comfort” from King John)

11. David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes (1980 – “Break the ice” from The Taming of the Shrew)

12. Spandau Ballet – Gold (1983 – “My salad days” from Antony and Cleopatra)

13. Rod Stewart – Ain’t Love A Bitch (1978 – “I’ll not budge an inch, boy” from The Taming of the Shrew)

14. Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (1979 – “Give the devil his due” from 1 Henry IV)

15. John Prine – Please Don’t Bury Me (1973 – “In maiden meditation, fancy-free” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

16. Tift Merritt – Hopes Too High (2008 – “In my mind’s eye” from Hamlet)

17. Kim Richey – Cowards In A Brave New World (2002 – “O, brave new world” from The Tempest)

18. Carly Simon – The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (1987 – “Such stuff as dreams are made on” from The Tempest)

19. Mary Hopkin – Those Were The Days (1968 – “Farewell for ever and a day” from The Taming of the Shrew)

20. Lou Christie – All That Glitters Isn’t Gold (1963 – “All that glitters isn’t gold” from The Merchant of Venice)

21. Billie Holiday – Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do (1949 – “In a pickle” from The Tempest)

22. Chan Romero – Hippy Hippy Shake (1959 – “For goodness sake, consider what you do” from Henry VIII)

23. Kitty Wells – Kill Him With Kindness (1965 – “This is a way to kill a wife with kindness” from The Taming of the Shrew)

24. Glen Campbell – Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) (2008 – “A good riddance” from Troilus and Cressida)


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  1. amdwhah
    April 22nd, 2021 at 09:25 | #1

    Ye olde Passworde: amdwhah

  2. girardo
    April 22nd, 2021 at 15:11 | #2

    What a great idea! I’ve learned some new things today. Always wondered what “salad days’ is supposed to mean. Shakespeare, man.

  3. April 23rd, 2021 at 14:49 | #3

    Excellent idea, Dude – and thank you for sparing us from BA Robertson.

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