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The Shining is Stephen King’s masterwork of horror, its title and powers inspired by a song by John Lennon, and perhaps referenced in Doctor Sleep.
The Shining is Stephen King’s masterwork of horror, which makes peace-loving John Lennon’s influence on the novel all the more shocking. Not only is The Shining one of King’s most respected and well-known works, but it’s also one of his scariest, and it’s hard to imagine how a John Lennon song had such a profound impact on it.

The Shining is one of Stephen King’s most respected and well-known works, and it’s no secret King is inspired by music. In fact, he often quotes song lyrics as epigraphs at the beginnings of his books. In interviews, King has shared how he listens to music while he writes his books. Although he does this mostly for his own entertainment, sometimes a particular song or lyric will find its way into his work, and in this case, it was a John Lennon song. Some of his more accessible songs had catchy beats and lyrics that made them into big hits. Today, perhaps John’s most well-known song is “Imagine”, but that is not the only popular song he produced as a solo-artist that had an important impact on popular culture, including the song that inspired one of King’s most famous horror book.
“Instant Karma” is one of John Lennon’s most popular songs, and its lyrics played a major role in Stephen King’s The Shining. A repeated line in the song is “we all shine on”, used in the refrain. This phrase inspired King to call the psychic ability some of the characters in his novel posses, including the young Danny Torrance, “the shining.” King was then going to call the book The Shine, but after someone pointed out to him that the term was sometimes used as an insult against black people, he changed it to The Shining. Either way, the title of the book and powers came from Lennon’s song.
Sadly, Stanley Kubrick’s movie version of The Shining does not contain any reference to John Lennon or his music, but there is a connection in Stephen King’s long-awaited sequel, Doctor Sleep. King often includes easter eggs in his novels, with references to other parts of the King Universe, and Doctor Sleep is no exception. In The Shining sequel, a grown-up Danny Torrance once again begins to have some disturbing encounters related to his “shine” power.
At one point, Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep hears the Beatles song “Not a Second Time.” This, of course, is a direct reference to his fear of having to go through more ghostly terror similar to what he experienced as a child at the Overlook Hotel. However, this is also a connection to Beatles member John Lennon. It’s possible that King included this as a nod to his original inspiration for The Shining.


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