Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. I’m a production editor working on a novel and can’t figure out the best way to present the epigraph source. The epigraph is “What I am is what I am,” and the author wants the source to be “Lauryn Hill, ‘A Rose Is Still a Rose.’” But in reality, the lyric is from the song “What I Am” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians; Lauryn Hill sang that line in Aretha Franklin’s song “A Rose Is Still a Rose.” My first instinct is to just credit the epigraph as Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, but the book is urban fiction, and so referencing Lauryn Hill is important for the author. And I don’t want to make it too complicated, since this is a novel and the epigraph should evoke a feeling in the reader, not make them ponder the finer points of music sampling. Any suggestions?

A. It would be sloppy and misleading to attribute the quote to Lauryn Hill. If Lauryn Hill sang the national anthem, would you attribute “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” to her? If the author is determined to quote Lauryn Hill, she should use a line from a Lauryn Hill song. Otherwise, she must credit whoever actually wrote that lyric, adding “as sung by Lauryn Hill” if she likes.