5 Songs You Didn’t Know Credit Edgar Allan Poe

As one of the most enchanting writers of the 19th-century, Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and short stories, specifically those pressed on the more macabre—”The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”—cemented his legacy as a master of dark romanticism within literature.

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Long after his mysterious death at 40 in 1849, the legend, myths and mystery of Poe and his works continue to get reinterpreted and adapted in film, television, stage, books, and other forms of media.

Poe’s words have also been transmitted through music, with many of his poems and stories credited in more contemporary songs.

Here’s a look into five songs that credit Poe.

1. “The Bells,” Phil Ochs (1964)
Written by Edgar Allan Poe, Phil Ochs

Published after his death, “The Bells” became one of Poe’s most well-known poems. Telling the tale behind the different states of chiming bells, his four-part, onomatopoeic stanzas increasingly develop from the lighter jingling and tinkling of bells around holidays and weddings through the more dreadful throbbing bells of death.

For his first album, All the News That’s Fit to Sing, the late folk singer Phil Ochs pulled from real-life stories in pieces of journalism, historic events and was inspired by excerpts from classic books and poetry, including “The Bells,” which he set to music.

Hear the sledges with the bells
                 Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
        How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle
           In the icy air of night!
        While the stars that oversprinkle
        All the heavens, seem to twinkle
           With a crystalline delight
         Keeping time, time, time
         In a sort of Runic rhyme
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
       From the bells, bells, bells, bells
               Bells, bells, bells
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells

2. “Ol’ Evil Eye,” Insane Clown Posse (1995)
Written by Edgar Allan Poe, Mike E. Clark and Insane Clown Posse

“Ol’ Evil Eye” is an Insane Clown Posse (ICP) retelling of Poe’s more horrid 1843 short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Released on the group’s third album, Riddle Box, the track features ICP’s studio vocalist and guitarist Legz Diamond reading an excerpt of the Poe classic.

I ring the doorbell, the door creeps open
And there it was starin’ and scopin’
The man’s left eye, red, big, and drippin’
I was trippin’. “Ahh, seeya!”
I ran home. I couldn’t stop thinking
About his eyeball winking and blinking
And it looked not a damn thing like the other. Ugh!
Shoulda wore a patch on the motherfucker
It hypnotized me, mesmerized me
Traumatized, paralyzed, terrorized me
Creepers, where’d you get that ball?
And tell me how it even fits in your skull

3. “Dream Within a Dream,” The Yardbirds (2003)
Written by Edgar Allan Poe, Jim McCarty

On The Yardbirds‘ 2003 album, Birdland also features a track inspired by Poe’s 1850 poem “Dream Within a Dream.” Reinterpreted by original Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty, “Dream Within a Dream” plays around with Poe’s original tale of the cyclical nature of life and death, grief and how some things just slip away—even the grains of sand in his hands. 

Birdland also featured special guests, including original guitarist Jeff Beck, Brian May, Slash, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani.

Here I stand amid the roar
Of a surf tormented shore
And I hold within my hand
Grains of a golden sand
How few how yet they creep
Through my fingers to the deep
While I weep, while I weep

Oh God can I not grasp
One with a tighter clasp
Oh God can I not save
One from the pitiless wave
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream
But a dream, but a dream

4. “The Lake,” Anohni (2004)
Written by Edgar Allan Poe and Anohni

Originally published in 1827, “The Lake” was one of Poe’s earliest poems and tells the harrowing tale of a delusional man whose lover died in a lake. He paddles his boat onto the lake to find her and ultimately meets the same fate as his lost love.

In 2004, Anohni (formerly of Antony and the Johnsons) revisited the tragic tale on her three-track EP, The Lake, which also features a song co-written by Lou Reed and Anohni, “Fistful of Love.”

In youth’s spring, it was my lot
To haunt of the wide earth a spot
To which I could not love the less
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound
And the tall trees that tower’d around.
But when the night had thrown her pall
Upon that spot– as upon all
And the wind would pass me by
In its stilly melody

5. “Annabel Lee,” Stevie Nicks (2011)
Written by Edgar Allan Poe, Stevie Nicks

The last poem that Poe completed within his lifetime, “Annabel Lee” was published just after his death in 1849 and has been set to everything from classical music to songs by artists, including Joan Baez, Black Rebel Motorcycle Jacket, Bright Eyes, and Josh Ritter.

Produced by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, Stevie Nicks‘ seventh solo album, In Your Dreams, also features a a musical ode to Poe’s posthumous tale. The story of his beautiful love who is ultimately buried near the sea, Nicks credited Poe on her version of “Annabel Lee” and took creative license with some subtle lyrical changes to Poe’s original—switching up For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams to And the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams and replacing Poe’s reference to the stars with the sun.

And the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
And the sun never shines, but I see the bright eyes
I lie down by the side

Among some of Nicks’ other lyrical shifts in transforming “Annabel Lee” from poem to song, she also swaps out smaller phrases like Poe’s wingèd seraphs for winged angels, while keeping the repetitious essence of the original poem.

In the end, Nicks also reworked the more grim final stanza—Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride / In her sepulchre there by the sea / In her tomb by the sounding sea—in a longer refrain of I lie down by her side.

I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my life, my life and my bride
I lie down, by her side
I lie down, by her side
My darling, my life, my life and my bride
I lie down, by her side
I lie down, by her side oohh
I lie down, by the side oohh
I lie down, by the side

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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