By the year 1596, when William Shakespeare had finished writing “Romeo and Juliet,” he was already an esteemed actor. But, he could hardly have imagined for one moment the impact this play of his would still have 450 years later.
Could he possibly have imagined after all that time, we would be thinking about the best songs about Romeo and Juliet?
He produced 39 works (that we know of) in tragedy, history, and comedy. He invented over 1700 new words and phrases. Most of which are still in use today. There has never been his equal anywhere or at any time. Never will be.
- The Public Consciousness
- Why Is It Timeless?
- Is There A Problem?
- Top 6 Best Songs About Romeo and Juliet
- Want To Find More Incredible Songs?
- Best Songs About Romeo and Juliet – Final Thoughts
The Public Consciousness
“Romeo and Juliet” is a play that has captured the public consciousness for centuries and has spawned many spin-offs. It is one of the classic love stories packed with passion and betrayal. And, of course, family feuds and, ultimately, tragedy.
The appreciation of the story has remained firmly with us because of films using the storyline and songs written about Romeo and Juliet.
The most commonly known films using the storyline are:
- 1936 “Romeo and Juliet” by George Cukor.
- 1961 “West Side Story” with music by Leonard Bernstein.
- 1968 “Romeo and Juliet” by Franco Zeffirelli.
- 1996 “Romeo and Juliet” by Baz Luhrmann
- 2021 “West Side Story” remake by Steven Spielberg.
All notable efforts, but nothing beats the real thing. If you ever get a chance to see the play performed as Shakespeare wrote it by a professional company, don’t miss that chance.
Why Is It Timeless?
Because the story is timeless, it can be understood by adults as well as adolescents. It has all the ingredients required for a good “weepy.” And, we all love a good “weepy,” don’t we?
While there has been plenty of film and stage interest in the story and its adaptation, music is another thing. You would think that the songwriters would be crawling over each other to write about it. But, it is not the case.
Is There A Problem?
It does seem that there might be. Now, I understand that we all have different tastes in music and how it is produced. But, when listening to some songs with Romeo and Juliet in the title, the only comment I can make is, “oh dear.”
There is quite a number that do not do the subject justice at all. As this is a list of the best songs about Romeo and Juliet, I will leave those out. No point in including them just to make up the numbers. But, there is a decent number to be getting on with, so let’s make a start.
Top 6 Best Songs About Romeo and Juliet
Romeo And The Lonely Girl by Thin Lizzy
To anyone privileged to have seen them at their best, Thin Lizzy was one of the best rock bands in the world in the 70s. While they were quite capable of putting on a great show full of power, riffs, and piercing solos, they had a slightly softer side as well. This song is from their 1976 album, Jailbreak.
It can hardly be called a ballad, as you might be expecting. It has a decent tempo that moves along and is supported by the typical “big solo” in the middle. But, there is a slightly different feel to this song compared to others on the album.
It doesn’t tell the story of the fateful couple…
Instead, it refers to Romeo as a man who is just unlucky in love despite his best efforts. He thought he had found that elusive girl of his dreams. But, she left him, and he is heartbroken. Never released as a single, the album went to #10 in the UK and #18 in America.
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
Probably the biggest song that Blue Oyster Cut released and certainly the most recognizable. It was taken from the album, Agents Of Fortune.
Here is a song that uses the story of Romeo and Juliet to emphasize eternal love. Some misconstrued the idea of the song to be encouraging a suicide pact, which is completely wrong.
Hoping for eternity…
It was written by lead singer Donald Roeser, or “Buck Dharma,” as he is better known, who was contemplating his own mortality. Rather than being an encouragement to suicide, it is talking about the inevitability of death. And that fearing it doesn’t do any good at all because it is going to happen.
He uses the line “Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity.” That’s why many have assumed there is some sort of pact going on. He used that line to refer to two people who are living but love each other so much that they are hoping there is some sort of eternity for them.
It was successful on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching #16 in the UK and #12 in America.
Running Bear by Johnny Preston
Here is a song that doesn’t mention Romeo and Juliet but carries the same theme. It was written by the Big Bopper and was released after his death in the plane crash that killed him and Buddy Holly.
The story refers to a young Indian brave called Running Bear and his love, an Indian maid called Little White Dove. They want to be together but are separated by certain issues, not dissimilar to Shakespeare’s story.
The Likeness of Romeo and Juliet
The first of these mirrors the situation with Romeo and Juliet and their two families, the Montagues and the Capulets. The two Indian tribes hate each other and are essentially at war with each other, just as Romeo and Juliet’s families are.
The second issue is something that might just be a metaphorical description of the first. There is a raging river between them that they cannot cross.
The price of love…
Perhaps the river is a metaphor. A physical representation of the problems they faced to further emphasize the hopelessness of their situation.
Unable to stand it any longer, they both dive into the river, meet in the middle briefly, and are dragged down in the torrent. The lyrics finish by saying, “now they will always be together, in their happy hunting ground.”
The tragic tale was released in 1959 and went #1 in January 1960 in the UK, New Zealand, and America.
Romeo by Petula Clark
In the 50s and early 60s, Petula Clark was the darling of British pop music. She had a string of hits, some of them in foreign languages. Just after the second world war, she had become a well-known feature on British radio. Later, she featured in several films, the best of which was 1969’s “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”
Recording-wise, she went quiet at times, but always seemed to be able to find the right song to make a comeback. Most of those songs were by prolific writers Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent. These include Downtown (1964), and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love (1966).
And there were plenty more. Despite the rise of The Beatles and the rest, she managed to ensure she stayed a force in music.
Similar But Different
The lyrics of this song have a certain similarity to the Romeo and Juliet story, but they look at a different result. She sings about two young lovers who are desperate to be together. But, instead of a tragic end, they marry. Perhaps too quickly, because they live to regret it very soon after.
The song itself can be seen to be emphasizing the negative aspects of love and relationships. But, somehow, the message is tempered because the song itself has a great hook and memorable tune. It reached #3 in the UK chart.
Somewhere (There’s A Place For Us) by PJ Proby
It isn’t possible to not include something from “West Side Story” on a list of songs about Romeo and Juliet.
This song has been recorded by just about everybody and their dog, but I have chosen this version. It reached #6 in the UK chart and did well in other European countries. The song appears in an important part of the film, just as Maria has found out that Tony has killed her brother.
With Tony dying in her arms at the end, she sings the first few lines again. Handkerchiefs at the ready.
Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim
Other than Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein and Sondheim produced one of the great music scores of our generation. There are elements “borrowed” from the classics in them.
There are phrases from Beethoven’s “Emperor Piano Concerto” and Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” But that hardly matters. It is a monumental Romeo and Juliet themed song that captures the emotions of the moment perfectly.
Romeo And Juliet by Dire Straits
Leave the best to last is what many people say, so I have. Among the greatest songs inspired by Romeo and Juliet, this is the clear winner. The track was taken from their third album, Making Movies.
In many ways, this album was a turning point for Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler’s younger brother and founding member, David, had left the band. He explained that he couldn’t handle the lifestyle.
Some would argue he couldn’t handle the rising fame of his brother. That is unfair because David contributed much to those first two albums. Whatever the reasons, Making Movies was the album where we began to see how good they, and Mark Knopfler, really were.
A Shakespearean album?
But, it was also the album that gave us “Romeo and Juliet.” Released in 1980, the album went to #4 on the UK album chart and #19 in America. “Romeo and Juliet” was released as a single in 1981 and went to #4 in the UK.
It has all the hallmarks of Shakespeare’s masterpiece with love and tragedy. Knopfler also plays a little with the lyrics. There is a reference to “Somewhere” from West Side Story and the 1963 song “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels.
A twist on a classic…
The song itself, whilst using the Romeo and Juliet theme, is about a real failed relationship Knopfler had. The lady in question was a singer in a band that he feels used him to further her own career. Hence we get lines like:
- “How can you look at me like as if I was just another one of your deals.”
- “Oh, Romeo, yeah. You know, I used to have a scene with him.”
Both lines I suspect Bob Dylan might have been proud of, with their “cut to the bone” intent. One of Knopfler’s greatest songs, both as a song and as a production, and a worthy end to this list.
Want To Find More Incredible Songs?
We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Songs About Magic, the Best Songs About Heroes, the Best Songs About Betrayal, the Best Songs About Brothers, the Best Songs About Dreams, and the Best Songs About California for more fantastic song selections.
Of course, you need to hear those tunes. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Best True Wireless Earbuds, and the Best Sound Quality Earbuds you can buy in 2022.
Best Songs About Romeo and Juliet – Final Thoughts
Would William have been flattered? I would think he would be. To think that hundreds of years after his play was first performed that “traveling minstrels” were still writing songs about it. And using it as an inspirational theme in a range of other areas.
As I said earlier, it is a story that transcends time. It is always with us because, to an extent, it is still happening. I suppose we ought to thank young Master Shakespeare for giving us something that inspired so much great music.
Until next time, happy listening.