{ subscribe_url: '/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/law.php' }

Music and the Law, Part 1

The following post is cross posted on the In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog.

As much as I love Christmas carols, I’m usually tired of them by mid-December as they seem to have been playing continuously since before Thanksgiving.  Well, it’s the Law Library to the rescue.  We polled our staff for their favorite songs about the law or that somehow relate to law.

Even though it was my suggestion, I was a bit apprehensive about this post.  Would my colleagues rise to the occasion?  Or would everyone have the same 2 or 3 responses?  I needn’t have worried.  The variety and scope of their submissions was amazing.  So much so, in fact, that we’re splitting it up into two separate posts.  Part 1 (herein) contains those entries that would fall under the rock or pop genres.  Part 2 will contain the classics, musicals and a few other varieties of music.

IMG_0008

Photo by Betty Lupinacci

I was surprised that it took ten submissions before anyone mentioned the latter of Aga Pukniel‘s choices:  “I am torn between Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” and Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock”. These are more like protests songs against injustice, and therefore I like them.”

Kelly chose one from a band that I really like:

I’m not sure if it’s my favorite law-related song, but it is one that immediately came to mind because it was very popular yet quite subversive.  “Beds are Burning,” the 1987 song by Australian band Midnight Oil is a protest song that was inspired by the Aboriginal land rights movement.  It includes the following lines:

The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share

 The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back

Peter Garrett, the front man for Midnight Oil, later became a politician, serving as a member of the Australian House of Representatives between 2004 and 2013, including a period as the environment minister in the Labor government.

The song “I Fought the Law” got two votes, but each for a different version:

Adrian Korz prefers The Clash, stating that “Having a bunch of cheeky rebellious English lads singing about this topic seems to indicate that they knew something about being on the losing legal side.”

While Don Simon chose the Bobby Fuller version, saying:  “It always reminded that you cannot fight City Hall.  I first heard it in the ‘60’s.”

Kimberly Allen gave us two songs: Bob Dylan’s, “Hurricane” and “Long Black Veil”, “a 1959 country ballad, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell. A saga song, “Long Black Veil” is told from the point of view of an executed man falsely accused of murder.   Although I am not familiar with the original, I have heard many contemporary artists sing it, including one of my favorites, The Band.”

And Andrew reminded me not to forget about Jay-Z’s Magna Carta album which was featured in our 2014 exhibit “Magna Carta:  Muse and Mentor.”

Jim Martin offered us “Let Him Dangle by Elvis Costello.  It is about the notorious Derek Bentley case…”.

Jennifer had the most unique spin on the topic.  Saying that she couldn’t pick just one, she gave several titles that invoked legal topics without necessarily using any words or phrases specific to law, or songs that wound up the subject of court cases or other legal dealings.  (We’re fudging the rock/pop restriction here with her first and last choices, but I really liked following her train of thought.)

Leonard Cohen, “The Law”. He just died and I’m listening to him more than usual, just like everyone else.

Randy Newman, “Short People”—appropriately enough, from the album Little Criminals.  It’s law-related because in 1978 Maryland delegate Isaiah Dixon tried to  make it illegal to play “Short People” on the radio in the State of Maryland. The assistant AG advised Dixon that this would be a violation of the First Amendment.

Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” from Thriller—paternity issues and child support.

Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” for inspiring what’s probably the most famous Supreme Court case involving a popular song? (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music)

Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear.”  He was directed by the judge in his divorce case to provide the proceeds from his next album to his soon-to-be-ex-wife, as part of their divorce settlement. The album Here, My Dear is what Gaye produced. At the time it was issued, the album was  panned, but critics have since found more to like about it.

Kingston Trio, “Tom Dooley” (traditional). This folk song is about the 1866 murder of a woman named Laura Foster in Wilkes County, North Carolina allegedly by Tom Dula.

Cutest submission goes to Wendy Zeldin for “Every Breath You Take“, not at all about the law, but “it’s by the Police”!

And finally, Lauren Western, a fellow David Bowie superfan, offered up the appropriately titled “Law (Earthlings on Fire)” as well as Judas Priest’s “Breakin’ the Law“, “…of course.  First heard it when I was three.”, making hers our most precocious entry.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will appear here on December 13, just about the time you get tired of dogs barking out “Jingle Bells”.

 

12 Comments

  1. Karen Rousseau
    December 1, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    I always think of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money” — it was usually in my head when I went into Monday morning administrative staff meetings …

  2. Jym Welch
    December 1, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run” Vid is on YouTube

  3. Sterling Silver Wilson
    December 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Charlie Daniels’ “Simple Man”

    Done also by Pops Staples, which sheds new light on the meaning.

  4. Lewis Gatlin
    December 1, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Jackson Browne- Lawyers In Love

  5. Bonnie
    December 1, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Cynic in me loves the Chicago musical songs Give them the old Razzle Dazzle, We both reached for the gun, and When Velma Takes the Stand.

  6. Laurel Singleton
    December 1, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”–he doesn’t get everything 100% right regarding the Fourth Amendment and car searches, but it’s pretty darn good! (Great for engaging high school students with search and seizure issues.)

  7. Francisco MacĂ­as
    December 1, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued” by Fall Out Boy

  8. Harry Martz
    December 2, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Ya just gotta have Johnny Cash singing Folsom Prison Blues here.

  9. molasses jones
    December 2, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    I’ll let you listen for yourself to Jill Scott’s song, My Petition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDfdj4BJpfE

  10. Vera Elizabeth Cayford
    December 3, 2016 at 3:00 am

    I love your choices, Bob Marley’s song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Johny Cash, “San Quentin” and Tony Orlando,””Tie a Yellow Ribbon” ” Take a Letter, Maria and Vicki Lawrence, ” The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” Flip Wilson song, ” Here Comes the Judge”. Thanks so much, really brings back memories. Have yourself an awesome Holiday. Best of Everything, Vera

  11. Bob shirley
    December 7, 2016 at 8:55 am

    My fav? It’s “Biko” by Peter Gabriel; an anti-Apartheid protest song telling the story of the death of Steve Biko. This song helped bring focus to the issues in South Africa. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03007760500504929

  12. Gary Cazalet
    December 7, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    To pair with the Midnight Oil song chosen by Kelly, a song by one of Australia’s best singer songwriters, Archie Roach. An indigenous man, his song Took the Children Away about death in a jail house always brings me to tears. And from the USA, Strange Fruit, a song more about the failure of law than law.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.