10 Great Songs about artists

Music is an art so it’s no surprise that they themselves are, or were, inspired by visual artists. Here are 10 top songs written in homage to visual art.

  • David Bowie – Andy Warhol: released on the album Hunky Dory (1971) in homage to the famous pop artist – it was received by its muse with characteristic blankness. Its a good song musically and its also pretty cool because its a cool art (visual and musical) writing about another influential artist.


  • John Cale – Magritte: Its a great song, he’s a great musician and the arrangement proves it. Complimenting it is Magritte’s surreal oeuvre of work – that somehow parallels the experimental nature of Cale’s work – both his own and his collaborative pieces.


  • Nat King Cole – Mona Lisa: although this is a song about a painting rather than its creator it’s still related and still beautifully sung. The original won an Academy Award but this has been forgotten because of its multiple covers – most famously by Elvis Presley.


  • The Stone Roses – Guernica: Inspired by the horrendous bombing of the Spanish town during the Civil War and Picasso’s resulting mural. This song clearly reflects the subject and is an angry and charged piece of 90’s music.


  • Sufjan Stevens – The Vivian Girls are visited In the NIght by Saint Dargarius: It is a ridiculously log title but the artistic inspiration is at once surreal and arresting. The music is a lyric-less soundscape inspired by the work of the Outsider artist Henry Darger who created the nation of the transsexual Vivian Girls. Stevens music is surreal and very trippy.


  • Jay – Z – Most Kingz:  this rap is a musical interpretation of Jean Michel Basquiat’s work Most Kings that references everyone from Malcolm X to Kurt Cobain. Its a comment on success, celebrity and what happens when it all goes wrong.


  • Rufus Wainwright – Art Teacher: A somewhat tortured sounding unrequited love story played out in the galleries of the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York – surrounded by Rubens and Rembrandts and Singer – Sargeants.  Its a tragic gay love song with art – ’nuff said.


  • Joni Mitchell – Turbulent Indigo:  The lyricism of Joni’s voice is beautiful and this song is too – it’s about the colours of Van Gogh’s works (particularly Starry Night)  and how his work has inspired her owning forays into painting.


  • The Stranglers – Goodbye Toulouse: This is not a song about the southern French city of Toulouse but in fact a sentimental remembering of the old style Paris eponymous with the paintings and prints of the early 20th century painter Toulouse Lautrec.


  • The Pogues – Wake of the Medusa: Firstly, who doesn’t like the Pogues?! A play on the title of the famous painting by  Delacroix –  the song is a mournful ballad dedicated to the death of the mythic beast that is the Medusa. Irish song writing, ballads and art…happy days.


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