The story of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous love stories in the world. Though it actually predates William Shakespeare’s play, his retelling is the best-known; it has been performed hundreds of times in the four centuries since it was published. Unsurprisingly, the story has also been adapted into music countless times. Here are some of the best songs about the star-crossed lovers.
1. Mademoiselle Juliette – Alizée
French pop star Alizée took things in a new direction with her 2007 hit Mademoiselle Juliette. The song portrays Juliet as a pawn who is now fighting back against her captors—not just her feuding family, but also Shakespeare himself. They all want her to be a tragic heroine, but Juliet isn’t interested. All she wants is to have a good time with Romeo and party like the teenager she is. After all, Juliet was only 14 in the play.
2. Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits
British rock band Dire Straits released Romeo & Juliet in 1980. It was inspired by frontman Mark Knopfler’s failed relationship with a past girlfriend and his bitterness about it. It portrays Knopfler as the Romeo who is still pining for Juliet, even though she has moved on and wants nothing to do with him anymore. Even worse, she sees him as just a stepping stone to the rest of her life. It’s a fascinating portrayal of how Romeo and Juliet’s story could have progressed.
3. Romeo and The Lonely Girl – Thin Lizzy
Irish band Thin Lizzy released Romeo & The Lonely Girl in 1976, and it quickly became one of their most iconic tracks. The song tackles the age-old question: were Romeo and Juliet really in love after just a few days, or were they just infatuated? Thin Lizzy’s take on it shows Juliet as a lonely teenager just looking for comfort; Romeo was just a way of passing the time until she found someone else.
4. Not Romeo, Not Juliet – Bryan Adams
Romeo and Juliet are often held up as the greatest love story of all time (though you might not agree!). But Bryan Adams’ song Not Romeo Not Juliet is about how not every relationship is a grandiose love story. The relationship that he describes is two broken people trying to find their way together. It isn’t perfect, but somehow they are making it work—even though they know that no one will ever write a play about them.
5. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue öyster Cult
This 1976 psychedelic rock song might mention Romeo and Juliet, but it’s not about love. Instead, it is a dreadful look at mortality. The lyrics point out that there have been countless lovers just like Romeo and Juliet, and like the star-crossed couple, most of them are now dead. It is a nihilistic take on the story, but it also depicts death as something you shouldn’t fight because it happens to everyone.
6. Romeo – Wipers
Romeo and Juliet is a story that has been adapted into countless genres, as evidenced by this song from punk band Wipers. The lyrics depict Romeo as a sad wanderer, roaming the city streets looking for Juliet. But his love isn’t there—in fact, the song says that there is no Juliet. We never find out if she was a figment of his imagination or if he’s mourning a lover that he lost.
7. Romeo & Juliet – Kasey Chambers & Foy Vance
Kasey Chambers’ country-infused ballad asks the question: was there any point to Romeo and Juliet’s story? Was it even real love, or was it just a silly tragedy that resulted in death? These aren’t new questions; in fact, they’ve been raised for centuries, ever since Shakespeare wrote the play. But Chambers spins them in a new and introspective way that draws your attention to the real tragedy of the tale.
8. Mystery Dance – Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello’s music was notoriously hard to interpret, which also goes for his song Mystery Dance. The lyrics open with a scene of Romeo trying to come through Juliet’s window ready to kill, but it isn’t clear what exactly is going on or how it relates to the original story. Unsurprisingly, fans have come up with a lot of theories. The prevailing one is that it is a covertly sexual song, a fact that becomes more obvious if you listen to a live performance.
9. Romeo & Juliet Love Theme – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky composed his stunning orchestral work retelling the story of Romeo and Juliet in 1880. The legendary love theme isn’t about the star-crossed lovers in the sense of most of the other songs on this list. It is intended to be the score of the play’s famous balcony scene, where Romeo and Juliet confess their mutual love for the first time.
10. Romeo – Dolly Parton
Romeo saw Dolly Parton teaming up with some of the biggest country stars of all time, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tanya Tucker, Kathy Mattea, Pam Tillis, and Billy Ray Cyrus. The song features the female singers trying to coax Billy Ray Cyrus into being their “Romeo” for the night. It makes sense, considering that Cyrus was one of the hottest country stars of the early 90s.
11. Romeo Must Die – Gabrielle Aplin
British songstress Gabrielle Aplin took the comparison to Romeo and Juliet in a unique direction with her song Romeo Must Die. The song describes a one-sided relationship with a man who has much stronger feelings for her than she does for him. Her dramatic conclusion is that “Romeo must die,” which hopefully means a breakup and not actual murder.
12. Juliet – Robin Gibb
Romeo and Juliet are so famous that just their names have become synonyms for a soulmate. In Robin Gibbs’ 1983 hit Juliet, Gibb sings about a woman who meant everything. She appeared out of nowhere on a magical night, much like Juliet Capulet did when she met Romeo. Even more important was that she taught her Romeo what love was really all about.
13. Romeo Had Juliette – Lou Reed
Lou Reed’s song Romeo Had Juliette contrasts the idyllic romance depicted in the play with the reality of life in New York. Reed released the song in 1989 at a time when the city was squalid, full of crime, and known for being filthy and poverty-stricken. For people coming of age at the time, Romeo and Juliet didn’t seem achievable—not when their lives were full of violence and ugliness.
14. Romeo & Juliet – S.O.A.P.
In S.O.A.P.’s 1998 R&B song, the British band hits on why Romeo and Juliet’s story has such universal appeal. Many people over the centuries have been able to relate to getting into a whirlwind romance with someone against the wishes of those around them, particularly the authority figures in their life. Much like in the play, it often ends in tragedy (though usually not to the same scale).
15. Just Like Romeo and Juliet – The Reflections
Every parent thinks that their child is the most beautiful child in the world. In the same way, most couples think that their love story is one of the best of all time. Most of us will never have a great drama written about how we met, but it doesn’t matter; just as The Reflections pointed out in their 1964 hit, what’s important is what the relationship means for your own history.
16. Romeo & Juliet – Daddex
Daddex’s hip hop hit never mentioned Romeo and Juliet explicitly, but the title sets the tone for the lyrics. The song is all about pining after a woman who the singer knows is out of his league—someone he knows he can never be with. He believes that she is much better than him and that she could never love someone who has messed up the way he has.
17. Cinema Show – Genesis
Genesis released Cinema Show in 1973, adapting the characters of Romeo and Juliet to the modern era. The song illustrates the timelessness of love stories and how they repeat in every era of history. Things haven’t changed all that much, except that this Romeo lives in a basement apartment and is meeting his Juliet at the movies with a box of chocolates. Meanwhile, Juliet is putting her makeup on and cleaning her kitchen before hurrying to her date.
18. Juliet To Your Romeo – Stephen Sanchez feat. Em Beihold
If you’re familiar with the play, you know that Romeo and Juliet had some strange ideas about love before they met each other. Romeo was infatuated with Rosaline, a woman who didn’t return his affections, while Juliet was being readied for an arranged marriage by her family. Juliet To Your Romeo is a modern take on this theme, illustrating how sometimes we don’t understand what love is all about until we meet our soulmate.
19. Romeo’s Tune – Steve Forbert
Steve Forbert recorded Romeo’s Tune in 1979. Though the song doesn’t explicitly mention Romeo and Juliet, the title gives us clues that tie into details in the lyrics. The singer is addressing a person that he loves in secret, asking them to sneak out to see him that night. There are many other subtle references to Shakespeare’s play, including masquerades, meeting under the cover of darkness, and themes of the sun and moon.
20. To You I Bestow – Mundy
Mundy’s song doesn’t explicitly mention Romeo and Juliet, but it was famously featured on the soundtrack of the 1996 film, Romeo + Juliet. The movie, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, adapted the story to the modern era and depicted the Capulets and Montagues as rival gangs. To You I Bestow is a love song that is perfectly suited to the story of the doomed lovers.
21. Love Story – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s 2008 hit might just be the most famous song about Romeo and Juliet in the modern era. The song, which was recorded when the pop star was only 19 years old, was nominated for various awards and became one of the year’s biggest songs. It depicts the classic story with a much happier ending, where Romeo straightens things out with Juliet’s father and asks her to marry him.
22. Romeo – Lucky Dube
If you didn’t think the story of Romeo and Juliet would make its way into reggae, think again. Lucky Dube’s 2001 song is all about coming to believe in love once you meet your soulmate. The singer says that now that he has met the person that he loves, he believes that they could be the next star-crossed lovers in their era of history.
23. Romeo Loves Juliet – Rick Astley
Rick Astley might be best known for his song Never Gonna Give You Up, but the British singer took things in a more serious direction with his 2001 track Romeo Loves Juliet. The song is about a modern-day Juliet who is trying to distract herself from her own loneliness. As a result, she is so busy that she never even notices that there is a Romeo waiting for her. Astley’s song points out that if we spend our life wishing we were somewhere different, we never get to enjoy what is in front of us.
24. Happy Ending – Elvis Presley
Elvis recorded Happy Ending for his 1963 film It Happened At The World’s Fair. In it, he dismisses Romeo and Juliet as the greatest love story of all time. Instead, he says, he just wants to live happily ever after with the woman that he loves.
25. Romeo – Petula Clark
One of Petula Clark’s first hits was her 1966 song Romeo. The song is all about a young woman learning the story of Romeo and Juliet and imagining what it would be like to have a Romeo of her own. Years later when she meets the man of her dreams, she finds herself wondering if his promises are really true. But she also knows that he has her wrapped around his little finger.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.