Ever wondered why there are so many Romeo and Juliet songs kicking around?
Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, Romeo and Juliet is arguably the one that has most permeated the public consciousness and cultural landscape – over 400 years after it was first performed on stage. The play is timeless because the story of Romeo and Juliet is timeless, relatable, and easily understood by adults and teenagers alike. Miscommunications, not going with one’s instincts but taking friends’ advice instead, then making rash decisions. Oh… and an epic a long-time feud between families.
Film adaptations like West Side Story and Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet both reflect and amplify the play’s popularity with modern audiences, and feed the continued cultural references to Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. In the 21st century, Romeo and Juliet songs are still very much in fashion – whether it’s artists featuring oblique references to the eponymous tragic heroes, lines from the play, or modern retellings of this eternal love story in their lyrics.
So we thought we’d pull together some of our favourite Romeo and Juliet songs and share them with you. We’ve split this post into 3 sections – songs that are basically about some aspect of the play, songs that reference Romeo and/or Juliet, and songs featured on the double album soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet.
Headphones or speakers ready? Let’s get stuck in…
Romeo and Juliet songs – takes on their story
‘Romeo And The Lonely Girl‘, Thin Lizzy (1976)
A great track from Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak album where Romeo is a metaphor for a guy who’s unlucky in love. Epic guitar solo too, from Scott Gorham!
‘Romeo and Juliet‘, Dire Straits (1980)
Probably one of Dire Strait’s best tracks, Romeo and Juliet is a beautiful and melancholy song about a pair of lovers that just can’t stay together.
‘Romeo’, Wipers (1983)
What would Shakespeare have made of a punk retelling of his work? In ‘Romeo’ American punk band Wipers give the Romeo and Juliet story a swooping of slide guitar and whooshing brass overhaul!
‘Juliet’, by Robin Gibb (1983)
Robin Gibb’s take on a New Wave tribute to the star-crossed lovers, with a mix of lyrics referencing both the play and modern life.
‘Love Story’ by Taylor Swift (2008)
A short story version of Romeo and Juliet, complete with feuding families and friends, and a secret love affair. No killing at the end though!
Various Romeo and Juliet songs from West Side Story (1961)
The entire West Side Story plot is a take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, so it should be no surprise that it’s made the cut for this list. This is a great video featuring the top 10 songs from West Side Story, each with its own take on different parts of the play, along with some useful narration.
‘Romeo and Juliet Love Theme’, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky (1880)
Not a song as such, but beautiful classical music inspired by the Romeo and Juliet love story. The love theme signifies both the couple’s first meeting and the scene at Juliet’s balcony.
Songs referencing Romeo and Juliet
So we’ve looked at the top songs that relate to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet love story (or a variation on it)… but there are literally dozens of references to Romeo and Juliet in songs where the name Romeo and/or Juliet are used as metaphors for lovers more generally. Here are our favourite significant references to Romeo and Juliet in songs.
‘Here In Heaven’, Sparks (1974)
And I’m thinking…
Juliet you broke our little pact
Juliet, I’m never coming back
‘Romeo Had Juliette’, Lou Reed (1989)
And Romeo had Juliette
And Juliette had her Romeo
‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ Blue Oyster Cult (1976)
Valentine is done
Here but now they’re gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity, Romeo and Juliet
40, 000 men and women everyday, Like Romeo and Juliet
‘(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet’, The Reflections (1964)
Our love’s gonna be written down in history
Just like Romeo and Juliet
‘The Bottom Line’, Big Audio Dynamite (1985)
Romeo oh Romeo ya gotta have your say
‘Romeo’, Dolly Parton ft. Billy Ray Cyrus (1993)
Hey, Romeo, where art thou
Get out here on the floor
‘Desolation Row’, Bob Dylan (1965)
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning,
“You belong to me I believe.”
And somebody says, “You’re in the wrong place, my friend
Then you had better leave.”
‘Mystery Dance’, Elvis Costello (1977)
Romeo was restless, he was ready to kill.
He jumped out the window cause he couldn’t sit still.
Juliet was waiting with a safety net.
He said “Don’t bury me cause I’m not dead yet”.
Romeo and Juliet 1996 soundtrack
Baz Luhrmann’s smash hit interpretation of Romeo and Juliet on the big screen came complete with an epic Hollywood soundtrack mixing existing pop and indie songs with original music.
The Romeo and Juliet soundtrack was released as two albums – William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture, and William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture. The first release contained only pop and indie songs, and the second release containing the score to the film (composed by Marius de Vries, Nellee Hooper, and Craig Armstrong).
Here are the playlists from the 2 albums:
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture
1. “#1 Crush”, Garbage
2. “Local God”, Everclear
3. “Angel”, Gavin Friday
4. “Pretty Piece of Flesh”, One Inch Punch
5. “Kissing You”, Des’ree
6. “Whatever (I Had a Dream)”, Butthole Surfers
7. “Lovefool”, The Cardigans
8. “Young Hearts Run Free”, Kym Mazelle
9. “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)”, Quindon Tarver
10. “To You I Bestow”, Mundy
11. “Talk Show Host”, Radiohead
12. “Little Star”, Stina Nordenstam
13. “You and Me Song”, The Wannadies
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture 2
2. “O Verona”
3. “The Montague Boys”
4. “Gas Station Scene”
5. “O Verona (Reprise)”
6. “Introduction to Romeo”
7. “Queen Mab Interlude”
8. “Young Hearts Run Free (Ballroom Version)”
9. “Kissing You” (Instrumental)
10. “Balcony Scene”
11. “When Doves Cry”
12. “A Challenge”
13. “Tybalt Arrives”
14. “Fight Scene”
15. “Mercutio’s Death”
16. “Drive of Death”
17. “Slow Movement”
18. “Morning Breaks”
19. “Juliet’s Requiem”
21. “Escape from Mantua”
22. “Death Scene”
And that ends our roundup of Romeo and Juliet songs. Any we’ve missed out that you’d like to see added to the list? Please do join in, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!