How Stephen King’s The Shining was inspired by John Lennon
John Lennon would inspire a generation of musicians as part of The Beatles as he and the Fab Four changed popular culture forever with a series of pop hits and iconic albums. To add to that, his solo career would see him continue to be a zeitgeist performer in his own right, capturing the minds of creatives across the globe as he championed artistic integrity above all else.
One figure who would be greatly influenced by Lennon’s solo career was the horror writing master Stephen King, a creative who used one of the singer’s tracks as inspiration for one of his most famous pieces of work; The Shining. King is a well-known lover of the band, so it’s expected he found a creative pep in their work, but even still, this is a curious connection.
The horror classic seemingly does not go hand in hand with the positive message of love and unity that poured out of the ‘Imagine’ singer’s solo work. Still, it somehow inspired the legendary novel; in fact, the title The Shining was allegedly pinched almost straight out of one of the former Beatles man’s tracks.
On Lennon’s solo hit ‘Instant Karma’ he sings the famous line: “We all shine on!” which isn’t related to the horror genre by any means, but it is rumoured to have stopped King in his tracks when he heard it whilst writing the book, and he knew he had his title. The song was famously composed and recorded in just one day and may have seen Lennon draw on some more essential imagination for inspiration.
However, King was quickly won over by the line. The writer had originally planned to call his book The Shiner, but after learning about the word ‘shiner’ and how it is also a racial slur against black people, the title was renamed The Shining. A choice that would define his legacy.
The acclaimed author is famed for dropping nuggets of information in his books for the eagle-eyed among his readers to spot. There was no reference to Lennon or his song ‘Instant Karma’ in the book which, on reflection, was somewhat surprising. However, this was all rectified in King’s sequel The Shining: Doctor Sleep when he seemingly confirmed Lennon’s influence, unable to contain his knowing smile for the readers.
Lead character Danny Torrence, finds himself entwined with more ghostly misadventures in Doctor Sleep. He hears someone playing The Beatles song ‘Not a Second Time’ which couldn’t be more ironic for Torrence. The film sees Torrence attacked by ghosts before and would rather not go through that experience for the second time.
The use of The Beatles track could be a coincidence, but it seemingly confirms the influence that Lennon had on the series, acting as a nod and a wink to how ‘Instant Karma’ gave him much more than a title for the series and was his muse. As with every cultural tyrant that grew up during the sixties, it’s hard not to acknowledge the weight of influence the Fab Four had over everything.