Popular Music Holds Power Over Popular Literature

Jun 26, 2018

Literature and popular music are not worlds that usually intersect, at least not in most people’s minds. But Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in literature and Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize in music prove that these two forms not only intersect, but have been connected for decades.

Florence Dore is a singer and professor of American literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her new book “Novel Sounds: Southern Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll” (Columbia University Press/2018) reveals that writers of the 1950s were more than inspired by popular music, they regularly borrowed from it.

Southern writer Flannery O’Connor’s popular short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is believed to be based on the Bessie Smith song of the same name. The Appalachian folk ballad “The Daemon Lover” has had a few iterations in literature including Donald Davidson adapted his book “The Big Ballad Jamboree” and half a century later was recorded by Bob Dylan.

Dore joins host Frank Stasio to talk about her new book. On Tuesday, June 26 at 6 p.m. Dore and her husband Will Rigby of the 1970s power pop group The dB’s will host a book launch party and rock show on the roof of the Durham Hotel that brings together their shared passions for popular music.