Mumford & Sons Influenced by Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall

Marcus Mumford, third from left, makes up the folk four-piece. 
Marcus Mumford of indie folk outfit Mumford & Sons hit the headlines earlier this week when he revealed the source of a line featured in a song from the band's latest album.  In an interview with BBC 4's Front Row, he admitted to 'lifting' a line from Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning novel, Wolf Hall.  The line features in the band's second album and follow up to their wildly successful 2009 debut, Sigh No More - itself a reference to Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  The title track's opening line begins "serve God, love me and mend", which was a line spoken by Benedick in the Bard's comedy of manners.  

Mantel's Wolf Hall won the Booker Prize in 2009
Mumford played down suggestions that their literary influences exceed those of their musical contemporaries, but says references to books appear regularly in their songs, with influences ranging from Shakespeare to John Steinbeck. In spite of John Wilson's best efforts, the 25 year-old remained tight-lipped as to the particular line in question. However, he revealed that it's one spoken by Thomas Cromwell in Mantel's historical novel. Mumford goes on to say that he's already read Bringing up the Bodies, Mantel's sequel to Wolf Hall, which has also been nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize.

Many songwriters tend to shirk away from revealing their influences, but the band's following is such that Mumford's openness will invariably lead to an increase in book sales.  I know first hand how influential a singer-songwriter's opinion can be: earlier this year, I found out that Mercury Prize-nominated Laura Marling - former girlfriend of Marcus Mumford and folk darling - revealed that Robertson Davies was one of her favourite writers.  This led me to buy Davies' Fifth Business, a novel of tremendous style and depth.  

Front Row's full interview with Marcus Mumford will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 2 October, but a snippet can be heard here.


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