Top 10 ‘The Hobbit’ / ‘Lord of the Rings’ Songs
In honor of Peter Jackson's film adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic 'The Hobbit,' we've compiled this eclectic list of the Top 10 'The Hobbit' / 'Lord of the Rings' Songs, rounding up prog-rock anthems, folky ballads and hard-hitting metal jams — some incredibly famous, some slightly obscure. Let's be clear: None of these tracks are directly affiliated with the books or movies, but they all have at least one element in common: In some form or fashion, they're all inspired by Tolkien's famous works. So join us on this journey and find out which track will be the one to rule them all.
The first track on our list of Top 10 'The Hobbit' / 'Lord of the Rings' Songs is an admittedly controversial pick. Robert Plant dropped lyrical nods to Tolkien in numerous songs — as a result, Zeppelin nerds have picked apart this eight-minute epic in a holy grail-like quest for references. Unlike, say, 'The Battle of Evermore,' 'Stairway' is a bit vague in that department, but some fans claim Plant's nodding to Gandalf as he romanticizes “rings of smoke through the trees.”
Like Robert Plant, Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart is known for incorporating elements of fantasy-based literature in his lyrics. And with 'The Necromancer,' a brooding sci-fi anthem from his band's third album, he explored his Tolkien fetish. The title references mythical evil spirit Sauron, and the 'three travelers' mentioned in the track may be a reference to the 'Lord of the Rings' characters Sam, Gollum, and Frodo. It could also just be a veiled nod to the band's three geeky prog-rock road warriors — a quintessential example of Peart's multi-layered lyrics.
Uriah Heep's proggy power-ballad 'The Wizard' isn't the most specific Tolkien shout-out on our list, but its wizardly lyrics and majestic chorus make it a perfect fit nonetheless. This 'wizard of a thousand kings' is never specifically named, but we're definitely getting a Gandalf vibe. “He had a cloak of gold and eyes of fire,” belts David Byron over bright acoustic strums.
“I want to tell you a story about a little man,” sings Syd Barrett over his band's foggy psychedelic churn, as spacey keyboards and a churning bassline drift into space. 'The Gnome,' a sleepy little nugget from Pink Floyd's debut album, isn't a direct Hobbit homage, but the title gnome (Grimble Grumble) sounds an awful lot like Bilbo Baggins: “He wore a scarlet tunic, a blue green hood,” Barrett sighs, “He had a big adventure.'
Unlike many other tracks on our list, Led Zeppelin's folk-metal epic 'Ramble On' is very specific with its Tolkien references. Robert Plant was an obsessive Tolkien fan, which he makes painfully clear in the final verse: “Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair,” he sings over gentle acoustic strums, “But Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her.”
While Neil Peart may have teased us with his Tolkien obsession on 'The Necromancer,' he totally indulges it on 'Rivendell,' a frosty acoustic ballad which romanticizes the titular elven utopia depicted in both 'The Hobbit' and 'Lord of the Rings.' Frontman Geddy Lee sings this gentle tale in a near-whisper, pining for an “enchanted place” filled with “eleven songs and endless nights / sweet wine and soft relaxing lights.”
‘Nimrodel / The Procession / The White Rider’
As you can tell from our list of Top 10 'The Hobbit' / 'Lord of the Rings' Songs, prog-rockers seem to really love Gandalf the Grey. A fine example is Camel's multi-part prog classic 'Nimrodel / The Procession / The White Rider,' which — between spacey instrumental dirges — paints a haunting image of literature's most popular wizard. “Once he wore grey (…)” Andrew Latimer croons, “The wizard of them all came back from his fall / This time wearing white.”
The pastoral folk of 'Stagnation' isn't the trademark style Genesis would refine later on in the '70s, but it's a perfect springboard for Peter Gabriel's reflective lyrics, which seem to depict the lone survivor of a nuclear war. Many fans have interpreted hese romantic, flowery images as a Gollum reference: “And I will wait forever, beside the silent mirror,” Gabriel chirps, “And fish for bitter minnows amongst the weeds and slimy water.'
A mammoth slice of psychedelic funk-metal from Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album, 'The Wizard' paints a compelling portrait of a mysterious, mystical character who sounds an awful lot like Gandalf: “Casting his shadow, weaving his spell,” Ozzy Osborne bellows over the band's black-magic rumble, “Just keeps walking, spreading his magic.” (Fun Fact: 'The Wizard' could also refer to the band's then-drug dealer.)
The mandolin-driven ballad 'The Battle of Evermore,' like most of Zeppelin's Tolkien-inspired tunes, isn't always cut-and-dry with its references. Robert Plant sings of a “Queen of Light,” a “Prince of Peace,” and a mysterious “Dark Lord,” all of whom could be 'Hobbit' or 'Lord of the Rings' characters (though there's little debate about the “ringwraiths” who “ride in black”). But this track tops our list of Top 10 'The Hobbit' / 'Lord of the Rings' songs because it pairs those lyrics to eerie, pitch-perfect music, capturing Tolkien's mystical mood.