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Classical Music Made into Pop Music: Sampling and Homages

From the 1960s onwards, popular music has been borrowing heavily from classical music, so it  can be said there’s been much classical music made into pop music throughout the last decades.

In fact, a trained ear will recognise a wide range of classical music in pop songs. Led Zeppelin “sampled” Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Bouree in E Minor in their song Heartbreaker and so did Tenacious D (of Jack Black and Dave Grohl fame) in Rock Your Socks thirty years later.

Rock and pop music have borrowed from classical music on numerous occasions – Deep Purple rework Tchaikovsky‘s Romeo and Juliet in their track Exposition/We Can Work It Out.

And who knew that Barry Manilow was a Chopin connoisseur? Take That covered Manilow‘s Could it be Magic, which in its original version contains an extract of Chopin‘s Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28.

Alicia Keys is an accomplished pianist and in her album Songs in A Minor she features Beethoven‘s Moonlight Sonata in her track Piano & I.

George Michael asked To Be Forgiven in his album Older and in his track he reworks Debussy‘s Prélude à L’après-midi D’un Faune giving it a bossanova-type vibe.


Classical Music Influence on Pop Music

Mozart would probably never have guessed how much his music would have trickled into popular culture for centuries to come.

The Magic Flute was referenced to by Kelis (Like You) and David Bowie in See Emily Play.

Mozart‘s Piano Sonata No.11 is sampled in Massive Attack‘s You’ve Never Had a Dream.

Tchaikovsky‘s Symphony No. 4 appears in Pink Floyd‘s Wish You Were Here while the Pet Shop Boys reworked The Nutcracker in All Over The World.

OutKast‘s Ms Jackson features Richard Wagner‘s Treulich Geführt, one of the most popular wedding marches alongside Mendelssohn’s, whose Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is featured in KLF‘s track Church of the KLF.

Ludacris uses “fruity” language rapping over Dvořák‘s Symphony No. 9 and Mozart‘s Dies Irae Requiem in Coming 2 America.

Janet Jackson hints at Erik Satie‘s First Gymnopédie in her song Someone to Call My Lover.

Malcolm McLaren used an interpolation of Satie‘s Gnossienne No. 3 in Jazz is Paris from a concept album that saw him collaborate with legendary French cinema actress Catherine Deneuve.

The musical Moulin Rouge featured a duet with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman called Come What May which reworks Erik Satie‘s Enfantillages Pittoresques.

This is just a selection of musical elements taken from classical music and reworked and rearranged for a more modern taste.

Searching for music samples and musical influences is fascinating. You end up seeing links between music and cinema and back to music working through the ages.


I am Paola Bassanese, and I love twitter – I think in slogans! I am a contributing author at itcher mag covering mainly quirky movies that I like and that I hope you′ll like too. [n-e-x-t] I have written a few books including The Foraging Home Cook, and also write about health and lifestyle for the Huffington Post. I consider myself to be a Londoner even though I was born in Italy. I love 80s music and foreign language films, but I also enjoy going to the opera and ballet.
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