NLS Music Notes: Janis Joplin

Join the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) for the NLS Music Notes meeting on Tuesday, January 23, at 6:00 p.m. (Central). Music Section Head Juliette Appold and Music Reader Services Librarian Mary Dell Jenkins will talk about Port Arthur, Texas native Janis Joplin and related items we have in the NLS Music collection. Q&A online chat will follow.

You can read Mary Dell’s blog post on Janis Joplin at

Send your questions in advance by writing to

The complete link and dial-in information are below.

Link to Zoom meeting:
Meeting ID: 161 873 8515
Passcode: 688218

Dial by your location:

+1 669 254 5252 US (San Jose)
+1 646 964 1167 US (US Spanish Line)
+1 646 828 7666 US (New York)
+1 415 449 4000 US (US Spanish Line)
+1 551 285 1373 US (New Jersey)
+1 669 216 1590 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID:   161 873 8515

For more information, please contact:

Juliette Appold
Head, Music Section


JANIS: HER LIFE AND MUSIC by Holly George-Warren (DB 97256)
JANIS JOPLIN: RISE UP SINGING by Ann Angel (BR 19426, DB 73764)

Take Time Out for “Take Five”!

Jazz aficionados and music lovers of all persuasions will want to savor a National Library Service (NLS) Music Notes Zoom special event on Tuesday, October 24 at 6:00 p.m. (Central).

Time Out for “Take Five” features a pre-recorded conversation between Music Section Head Juliette Appold and Brian McCurdy, Music Reader Services Librarian. Appold and McCurdy will discuss the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five” and its relevance to the NLS Music collection. A live Q&A session will follow.

Whet your musical appetite by reading McCurdy’s excellent 2020 blog post about “Take Five.”

You can also learn more on the NLS Music Notes Blog.

The direct link to join the October 24 Zoom meeting is

We hope you’re able to “Take Five” with us on October 24!

Explore Music and the Literature That Inspired It in the TBP Collections

By Becky

There are so many books that have inspired musicians. Alice in Wonderland alone inspired everyone from Jefferson Airplane to Tom Petty, Lady Gaga, the Beatles, and others. Check out ALICE IN WONDERLAND; and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS by Lewis Carroll (DB 50842; BR 12746) from the Talking Book Program collections.

Tolkien’s Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion have inspired hundreds of songs, such as Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: BEING THE FIRST PART OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J. R. R. Tolkien (DB 47486; BR 09745; LB 04282) and SILMARILLION by J. R. R. Tolkien (DB 60367; BR 11510).

And there are many songs that reference The Master and Margarita. Probably the best known is Rolling Stones: “Sympathy for the Devil.” THE MASTER AND MARGARITA by Mikhail Bulgakov (DB 37107; BR 19148).

Andrew Hozier-Byrne (who performs as Hozier) has a new album coming out in August, inspired by his experience during the pandemic. Several interviews mention that Hozier began to reference epic poetry during lockdown.  Some of Hozier’s new songs are based on Dante’s Inferno and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We have both in our collection: METAMORPHOSES by Ovid (DB 114243; BR 07318); and INFERNO by Dante Alighieri (DB 76353, BR 19903).Hozier wrote another one of the new songs after hearing Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy talk about feminism; it’s called “Swan Upon Leda,” another call-back to myth. In our collection: ONE HUNDRED ESSENTIAL MODERN POEMS (contains “Leda and the Swan”) (DB 65015).

What are some other literary works that have inspired music? We’ve found quite a few.

Kate Bush has been introduced to a new generation of fans because of her song “Running Up the Hill” being used in a streaming show. She also wrote a song called “Wuthering Heights,” based upon the 19th century English novel. WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte (DB 25178; BR 22475; LB 04699).

Basing a song on Fyodor Dostoevsky seems especially impressive—even a novella. There’s a song called “From Under the Floorboards” by the band Magazine. It is based on Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground–the friend who told me about it says it gets bonus points for condensing the whole spirit of the novella into four minutes! NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (DB 37598).

Of course, I can’t talk about music based on literature without including U2, my favorite band. From their very first album, they were referencing books and poems in the lyrics—”Shadows and Tall Trees” comes from William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES (DB 48388, BR 09480, BR 22324), and in “The Ocean,” they refer to Oscar Wilde. BEST OF OSCAR WILDE: SELECTED PLAYS AND LITERARY CRITICISM by Oscar Wilde (DB 62711; BR 16500). Bono used the Bible as inspiration for many of his songs: for example, taking the 40thPsalm as lyrics for the song “40.” A good half of U2’s song lyrics have biblical allusions.

“Exit,” on their album The Joshua Tree, was inspired by Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song; it is probably their darkest song. THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG by Norman Mailer (DB 13985). Bono also wrote a song with Salman Rushdie. “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” was not just influenced by but directly taken from his novel; he sent a copy to Bono and asked him to set some of the words to music. GROUND BENEATH HER FEET by Salman Rushdie (DB 48279).And their latest two albums got their titles from William Blake’s poetry collections. SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE (BT 03983). For audio: SELECTED POEMS by William Blake (DB 20845).

I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of books that have inspired music, so if you’ve been yelling a title while reading this, put it in a comment below.

Remembering Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn, known as the “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” passed away peacefully in her sleep on October 4, 2022, at the age of 90. Though she never had any formal music training, Loretta made her name in country music, writing songs that drew from her own life experiences growing up in a loving but poor family as one of eight children in a Kentucky mining town. Loretta earned many accolades throughout her music career, including three Grammys, eight Country Music Association Awards (among them the honor of being named the first female artist to win the Entertainer of the Year Award), and member of the Grand Ole Opry.

We have compiled a reading list of books in the TBP collection that will give readers a peek into the life and legacy of Loretta Lynn:

A country music legend looks back on her friendship with fellow icon Patsy Cline, who died at age thirty-one in 1963. They met when Lynn’s career was just getting started, but Cline was a star. Cline became a friend and mentor who was taken too soon. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2020.

The country music star from Butcher Holler, Kentucky, recalls her life from rags to riches. Lynn emphasizes the importance of her twenty-five-year-old marriage and her faith in people and in God.

Country singer continues her autobiography begun in COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER. Includes reminiscences of her career and friendship with Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, and other entertainers; her stormy marriage to her late husband, Doolittle Lynn; and her relationships with her children. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2002.

Companion to the PBS documentary series chronicles country music from its roots in the American South to the modern commercial successes of the genre, which encompasses a wide range of sounds and styles. Profiles and interviews some of country’s biggest stars (including Loretta Lynn). Some strong language. Commercial audiobook. 2019.

New York Times editor explains the ways the classic country music of the 1950s to 1970s resonated with the rural, working-class lives of his New Hampshire family and neighbors. Discusses legendary musicians like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn and their effect on audiences. Strong language. 2008.

CLASSIC COUNTRY MUSIC: A SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION by MALONE, BILL (available for download though BARD: DBM 03645. For a physical cartridge contact the NLS Music Division: or 800-424-8567 ext. 2)
A Smithsonian Folkways recording. “The recordings presented [here]… are intended to be both historically representative and esthetically appealing; thus, the listener can enjoy hearing the music and at the same time gain an understanding of its sources, evolution, styles, and meaning. The set accurately documents country music’s past and offers a good cross-section of the newer performers and styles”—Publisher’s note (includes “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn and “After the Fire is Gone” by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty).

David Bowie’s Must-Read Books

David Bowie was an original. The world will never see another musician like him. On January 2019 it will be two years since he passed, and the world will continue to remember him by listening to the music he left behind. It’s no surprise that in addition to being an ultra-original musician he was also an avid reader, and left behind an extensive reading list. A year ago, Bowie’s son and film director Duncan Jones, launched the “David Bowie Book Club” through his Twitter feed. He invited folks to visit one of his dad’s favorite books each month. He chose the titles from the official list of Bowie’s Top 100 Must-Read Books, curated by Bowie’s official archivists. You’ll be glad to know that many of Bowie’s recommended books are available on BARD. They are listed below, sorted by publication date from newest to oldest.

  • The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby, 2008. DB 66150
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, 2007. DB 67964
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, 2002. DB 56184
  • Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler, 1997. DB 41918
  • A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924 by Orlando Figes, 1997. DB45238
  • The Insult by Rupert Thomson, 1996. DB 43935
  • Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, 1995. DB 42023
  • The Bird Artist by Howard Norman, 1994. DB 38663
  • Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir by Anatole Broyard, 1993.       DB 37861
  • Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia. DB 34102
  • Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick, 1986. DB 73053
  • The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, 1986. DB 26608
  • Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd, 1985. DB 24458
  • Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, by Gerri Hirshey, 1984. DB 23848
  • Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter, 1984. DB 23564
  • Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis, 1984. DB 22896
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo, 1984. DB 23512
  • The Life and Times of Little Richard by Charles White, 1984. DB 22861
  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, 1980. DB 76953
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, 1980. DB 50482
  • Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, 1980.  DB 16347
  • Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess, 1980. DB 16527
  • The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, 1979. DB 60458
  • Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz, 1978. DB 11794
  • Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977. DB 09853
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967. DB 37107
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, 1965.  DB 22726
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow, 1964. DB 22553
  • The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford, 1963. DB 36324
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, 1963.  DB 12439
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, 1962.  DB 15213
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, 1961.  DB 69464
  • The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958.  DB 18177
  • On The Road by Jack Kerouac, 1957.  DB 31675
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, 1955.  DB 67388
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, 1948. DB 73474
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright, 1945. DB 20415
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker, 1944. DB 17658
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus, 1942.  DB 40902
  • The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West, 1939. DB 12925
  • Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood, 1935.  DB 54128
  • The Bridge by Hart Crane, 1930. DB 10148
  • Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, 1930. DB 12881
  • As I lay Dying by William Faulkner by 1930. DB 11553
  • The 42nd Parallel (Book #1 of U.S.A Trilogy) by John Dos Passos, 1930. DB 42698
  • Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, 1929.  DB 91015
  • Passing by Nella Larsen, 1929.   DB 40702
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, 1928.  DB 44295
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925. DB 55714
  • The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, 1922.  DB 19566
  • McTeague by Frank Norris, 1899. DB 12689
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, 1856. DB 13249
  • Inferno, from the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, circa 1308-1321. DB 76353
  • The Iliad by Homer, circa 800. DB 6635