We're Going to be Friends
I received my highly anticipated copy of Jack White's new children's book last week. It's based on the song We're Going to be Friends by his band The White Stripes. The lyrics translate into a wonderful storybook for young people and the illustrations have a vintage-yet-innovative quality.
It got me thinking about books based on songs. There are many children's books based on nursery rhymes and lullabies, but I think this is the first one based on a modern rock song.
What about novels based on popular songs?
Songs Based on Books
As I began my search for novels based on songs, I expected to have no problem finding lists of them. I was in for a surprise, however.
With every iteration of search terms I tried, the results kept showing me the opposite: Songs based on books.
It makes sense that musicians would find inspiration in books. From Rush's album 2112 (based on the novella Anthem by Ayn Rand), to Led Zeppelin's song Ramble On (based on J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings), to David Bowie's song 1984 (obviously based on George Orwell's novel 1984) -- it isn't difficult to find either a direct interpretation or at least an allusion to a novel in these works. Artists find inspiration from the world around them, including whatever they're reading.
It would also make sense, then, that authors would derive inspiration from songs and song lyrics. So why was I having a difficult time finding the same sort of lists for books based on songs?
Books Based on Songs
From my research, I have discovered that copyright law has a lot to do with the obvious use of songs in books. There are many different rules on how much of a song's lyrics a writer can quote in a novel. I've read that authors can use anywhere from four lines to the entire song as long as permission is given. Perhaps the copyright law is so questionable that writers prefer to avoid the hassle.
I did find a list of book titles based on popular songs, however, I'm not sure the stories are based on the songs.
It doesn't answer the question as to why more authors don't at least cite popular songs as inspiration for their novels? Maybe I'm missing something. I know that I've used several songs as inspiration for pivotal scenes in my books. While I didn't quote lyrics, the emotions and mood were a direct reflection of the song as I listened and wrote.
I've thought about writing a novel based on songs. I even have a few of my favorite songs in mind and I think it would be a challenge to expand song lyrics into a full-length novel. I could do it without direct quotations, but I would certainly cite the songs as inspiration in the book notes.
Maybe I've missed a chunk of books based on songs that everyone else knows about. If so, please let me know.
I write novels and poetry and this blog.