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Loss of Member of Uriah Heep Evokes Other Dickens References in Rock

Uriah Heep Is Just One Example of Rock's Dickens Inspiration


Classic rock lost yet another brother, as John Lawton of Uriah Heep passed away on July 7. He had been the group's lead singer for three decades, after replacing David Byron in 1977.

Although Lawton was not the original voice on hits like “Easy Livin'” and “Sweet Lorraine,” he used his powerful tenor to make the songs his own when the band performed. He helped Uriah Heep maintain a devoted following for decades, which for baby boomers probably seems nearly as long ago as the author who inspired the name.

Charles Dickens created the character Uriah Heep, a likable but shifty petty thif, who recruited youngsters like the title orphan in David Copperfield. That particular book, as well as several other works by the author also known as Boz, has found its way into rock music in various ways over the past seven decades.

Here are ten examples of how Dickens has been incorporated in music, either through lyrics or through band names.

1. David Copperfield

This novel gave rock fans the name of the band mentioned in the intro who, in addition to the music, boasted some of the most artistic album covers in rock history.

2. Artful Dodger

Jack Hawkins was the lad's name in Oliver Twist, yet this sly nickname suited him nearly as well as it did the alternative rock band of the late Seventies and early Eighties.

3. Gilbert O'Sullivan's “Can't Get Enough of You”

The aforementioned classic book also inspired the simile in this track from O'Sullivan's Off Centre album, when he says, “Like Oliver Twist when he asks for more, I just can't get enough.”

4. Great Expectations by Kiss

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Destroyer is best remembered for the smash “Beth,” but this cut is the other well-delivered ballad on an album otherwise rife with rock and roll.

5. Tiny Tim

As he tiptoed through the tulips, all the while brandishing a ukulele, this long-haired falsetto took his name from Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

6. “Bleak House” by Anthony Phillips

The progressive rocker included this Dickensian track on his album Sides in 1979.

7. “Jenny Wren”

Paul McCartney's ode, dedicated to the crippled but kind character in Our Mutual Friend, can be found on Chaos and Creation in the Backyard from 2005.

8. Tale of Two Cities

Punk rockers Lords of the New Church employed this well-known title for a song on Nothing Sacred.

9. Our Mutual Friend

The Divine Comedy, a critically-acclaimed Irish pop band, used this title for a single from the album Absent Friends.

10. Estella by Kenny Hoopla and Travis Barker

“I love you too much I hate myself enough for the both of us” could be words spoken by Pip to the object of his affection in Great Expectations, whereas Hoopla is a contemporary of Machine Gun Kelly and Barker is the drummer for Blink-182.

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