Classical Music Rears Its Head in Popular Songs

You may not have realized it, but classical music has made a comeback in popular songs. Here are a few examples of classical music rearing its head in popular songs.


In recent years, classical music has been making a comeback in popular culture. From adaptations of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in films like The Shawshank Redemption to Miley Cyrus’ use of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” in her smash hit “Wrecking Ball,” it seems that classical music is everywhere these days.

But what is it about classical music that makes it so popular? Is it the grandiose scale of the music? The complex, emotionally-charged compositions? The fact that it’s been around for centuries and has stood the test of time?

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that classical music has had a significant impact on popular culture in recent years. Here are just a few examples of how classical music has made its way into the hearts and minds of the masses:

The Use of Classical Music in Pop Songs

Recently, there has been a resurgence of classical music in popular songs. This can be seen in the use of classical instruments such as the piano and violin, as well as in the use of classical themes and melodies. This trend is interesting because it shows how classical music can still be relevant and popular in today’s society.

The Beatles – “Yesterday”

“Yesterday” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and first released on the album Help! in August 1965. The song has been covered by over 2,200 artists.

In 1997, “Yesterday” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, it was ranked No. 59 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, and in 2008 it was ranked at No. 2 in Spinner’s list of the “100 Greatest Pop Songs”. “Yesterday” is considered by some to be one of the greatest pop songs of all time.

The Beatles used a string quartet arrangement for the song, an unusual choice for a pop song at that time. McCartney later said that he had been inspired by Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, which he had seen on television.

Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir”

Kashmir is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in 1975 as the last track from their sixth studio album Physical Graffiti. It was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant over several years with contributions from John Bonham and John Paul Jones. With its Arabian-influenced Eastern sound, Kashmir is one of Led Zeppelin’s most popular songs, and has been covered by many artists.

The opening bars were improvised by Page on a B string while he and Plant were waiting for engineer Andy Johns to set up a tape machine during the recording of Physical Graffiti. The working title for the song was “Driving to Kashmir”, which reflected its original inspiration: a road trip Page and Plant took through Morocco in October 1968. The lyrics were written over a period of several years, with contributions from Jones and Bonham. Kashmir was one of the few Led Zeppelin songs not credited to all four members of the band, as drummer John Bonham did not contribute to its composition.

The song is in the key of A minor and features Page’s use of slide guitar and open tunings. It is built around a repetitivehook based on Jimmy Page’s use of a double stop slide riff which makes use of an eastern-sounding pentatonic minor scale. The riff is played three times before Plant begins singing; it reappears sporadically throughout the song. Jones plays a sitar-like instrument called a dulcimer on Kashmir, which gives it its distinctive sound.

Muse – “Knights of Cydonia”

Muse – “Knights of Cydonia” is a popular song that prominently features classical music. The song is sung in a rock style, but the instrumental backing is provided by a full orchestra. The orchestra plays a piece of classical music called “The Planets: Mars, the Bringer of War” by Gustav Holst. This use of classical music gives the song a very grandiose and epic feeling.


As we have seen, classical music has had a profound influence on popular music, and vice versa. This is evident in the way that classical composers have been inspired by popular songs, and in the way that popular musicians have drawn on classical techniques. It is also clear that the two genres have often been performed side by side, with classical musicians appearing on popular albums and vice versa. In recent years, there has even been a trend for popular artists to release classical-style albums.

It is clear that classical music and popular music are not as distinct as they once were. The boundary between them is becoming increasingly blurred, and it is hard to say where one genre ends and the other begins. This is a positive development, as it allows both genres to continue to evolve and grow.

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