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Since the beginning of humanity, sound has been one of the most important instruments for communication. For much of history, music was an ideal method of telling stories and sharing info about news and important feats. Today, music continues to be one of the most used mediums for discussing many topics, including the law and the legal profession.
Lawyers, judges, and courtrooms often capture the attention of audiences. The world of law has been reflected endlessly in entertainment media. The legal industry serves as an inspiration for great works of art and culture, including books, theater, paintings, movies, television, and even comics. Each of these works offers a unique perspective on society’s perception of what happens in the life of a lawyer, examination of a witness, or trial in court.
Music is no exception in the entertainment world. It offers commentary on many aspects of life, including the law. Further, music is one of the most personal creative mediums for many artists and listeners alike. In each note and phrase, we can find feelings, emotions, and even personal anecdotes that the artist seeks to share with the listener. In turn, music often generates a unique connection for the listener.
The legal world has inspired artists across various genres to create unforgettable songs about the law that tell great stories of lawyers, judges, trials, witnesses, and courts. Music, much like other entertainment, also often offers commentary on the state of the law and encourages discourse about these problems.
Take some time to forget about being silent in court, turn up the volume, and enjoy some tunes inspired by the law and its world.
A Church, a Courtroom, and Then Goodbye
This is the debut song that launched the career of Patsy Cline, one of the most influential country music artists of all time. The song addresses a marriage first and then tackles the divorce process.
Artist: Patsy Cline
Album: Songs by Patsy Cline
Lyrics Excerpt: The next scene was a crowded courtroom. And like strangers, we sat side by side. Then, I heard the judge make his decision, and no longer were we man and wife.
…And Justice for All
This title track of influential metal band Metallica’s fourth album offers commentary on the influence of money in overpowering real justice, resulting in false justice in the legal system.
Album: …And Justice for All
Genre: Heavy metal
Lyrics Excerpt: Halls of justice painted green, money talking. Power wolves beset your door. Hear them stalking. Soon you’ll please their appetite, they devour. Hammer of justice crushes you, overpower.
Better Get a Lawyer
This track by the Australian indie rock band, The Cruel Sea, tells the story of someone who is caught by police officers and now finds himself in need of “real good” help to get out of trouble.
Artist: The Cruel Sea
Album: Three Legged Dog
Genre: Indie Rock
Lyrics Excerpt: Then the officer said better get a lawyer, son. You better get a real good one.
Breaking the Law
Often regarded as one of the most iconic songs for both Judas Priest and the heavy metal genre, this song tells the story of someone at rock bottom – no work, no money, plagued by loneliness and frustration – who resorts to crime to survive.
Artist: Judas Priest
Album: British Steel
Genre: Heavy Metal
Lyrics Excerpt: Feel as though nobody cares if I live or die, so I might as well begin to put some action in my life. You know what it’s called. Breaking the law, breaking the law. Breaking the law, breaking the law.
Don’t Be a Lawyer
Don’t Be A Lawyer is a parody song in the style of Bell Biv DeVoe and Bobby Brown performed by Burl Moseley during a season four episode of the CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Jim, portrayed by Moseley, sings this solo number advising a friend, as you may have guessed, not to become a lawyer.
Artist: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Cast, feat. Burl Moseley
Album: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Original Television Soundtrack
Genre: New Jack Swing/Hip-Hop – Parody Song
Lyrics Excerpt: Don’t be a lawyer! Don’t do it, quickest way to ruin your life. Don’t be a lawyer! Not worth it, it’ll leave you dead inside.
Here Comes the Judge
This song, generally considered to be the only hit of Short Long’s career, was inspired by a comic act on the TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in. With a funky and soul rhythm, this song tells a story about what happens inside the courtroom when the judge arrives.
Artist: Shorty Long
Album: Here Comes the Judge
Lyrics Excerpt: Court’s in session, order in the court now. Court’s in session, can’t nobody smoke now. Here comes the judge.
This song, written by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy, was inspired by the true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s conviction on murder charges. It offers commentary on the circumstances that led to Carter’s false and biased trial.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Genre: Folk Rock
Lyrics Excerpt: The trial was a pig-circus. He never had a chance. The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums.
I Fought the Law
Originally written by Sonny Curtis and later popularized by The Bobby Fuller Four, The Clash’s cover of I Fought the Law is probably the most recognized version of this iconic song. The track has appeared in television commercials and movies and tells the story of a man on a crime spree that finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
Artist: The Clash
Album: The Cost of Living
Lyrics Excerpt: Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won. I fought the law and the law won. I needed money ’cause I had none. I fought the law and the law won. I fought the law and the law won.
Lawyers, Guns and Money
Warren Zevon sings about someone that gets in trouble during his vacations and figures out that he will need the help of lawyers, guns, and money to get rid of his problems. It is said that the song was inspired by a series of true events experienced by Warren and his manager during a visit to Cuba.
Artist: Warren Zevon
Album: Excitable Boy
Genre: Hard Rock
Lyrics Excerpt: I was gambling in Havana. I took a little risk. Send lawyers, guns, and money, Dad, get me out of this (ha)!
Living With the Law
This debut song and album by Chris Whitley launched him into stardom. Considered at the time to be one of the most upcoming rock ‘n roll stars, Chris tells a story of passion, running from the law, and feeling like an outlaw.
Artist: Chris Whitley
Album: Living With the Law
Lyrics Excerpt: Well I come down from the country, find a lesson in the draw. There ain’t no secrets in the city. It’s hard living with the law.
My Attorney Bernie
Dave Frishberg’s song My Attorney Bernie is a perfect illustration of a good relationship between client and lawyer. It is narrated from the perspective of a grateful client who is incredibly thankful for the care, good advice, and commitment of his lawyer.
Artist: Dave Frishberg
Album: Can’t Take You Nowhere
Genre: Jazz/Vocal Jazz
Lyrics Excerpt: Bernie tells me what to do. Bernie lays it on the line. Bernie says we sue, we sue. Bernie says we sign, we sign.
This Side of the Law
The song appeared on the soundtrack of the 1970 film I Walk the Line and discusses how the perception of the facts can vary depending on which side of the law someone is on. Everything depends on “…the eye of the beholder.”
Artist: Johnny Cash
Album: I Walk the Line Soundtrack
Lyrics Excerpt: On this side of the law, on that side of the law. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is for and who’s against the law?
Sue Me, Sue You Blues
This George Harrison track reflects on real-life events inspired by the legal issues surrounding The Beatles during 1971 after Paul McCartney filed a lawsuit in an effort to dissolve the band’s relation with Apple Corps.
Artist: George Harrison
Album: Living in the Material World
Lyrics Excerpt: Well, you serve me and I’ll serve you. Swing your partners, all get screwed. Bring your lawyer, and I’ll bring mine. Get together, and we could have a bad time.
Talk to My Lawyer
Chuck Brodsky uses his guitar, irony, and peculiar voice to tell the story of someone that just had an accident in the street and finds out he is being helped by a lawyer that offers him more than just assistance to get up from the fall.
Artist: Chuck Brodsky
Album: Letters in the Dirt
Lyrics Excerpt: I fell so hard I was seeing stars, dollar signs, and men from Mars. And the man who helped me up said I ought to sue. He was a lawyer.
This tune tells the story of a woman trying to defend her partner who is charged with a crime. At the end of the song, there is a surprising plot twist. As a bonus, the video is a superb mini-movie that is worth watching while listening.
Lyrics Excerpt: The court awaited as the foreman got the verdict from the bailiff. Emotional outbursts tears and smeared makeup, he stated he was guilty on all charges.
The Court Room
The iconic voice of Clarence Carter accompanied by cool horns and string arrangements tells the story of a Reverend taken to trial for being “a no good preaching man.”
Artist: Clarence Carter
Album: The Court Room Single
Lyrics Excerpt: The jury said, shut up, Sally. Will the defense take its case. Defense walked to the jury box, with a stern look on his face.
The End of the Innocence
Differing interpretations of the true meaning of this song cover a range of societal issues from the Cold War to Ronald Reagan. Regardless of the correct interpretation of this commentary, the first verse at least addresses the dissolution of a marriage, a child caught in the middle, and the impact of a lawyer’s involvement: the end of innocence.
Artist: Don Henley
Album: The End of the Innocence
Lyrics Excerpt: With mommy and daddy standing by, when “happily ever after” fails. And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales. The lawyers dwell on small details, since daddy had to fly.
The Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia
Originally by Vicky Lawrence and later covered by Reba McEntire, this murder balled takes the listener through the series of events leading up to and during the murder trial of Brother and explains Little Sister’s accusations of the local criminal justice system being rigged.
Artist: Reba McEntire
Album: For My Broken Heart
Lyrics Excerpt: That’s the night that the lights went out in Georgia. That’s the night that they hung an innocent man. Well, don’t trust your soul to no backwoods, southern lawyer. ‘Cause the judge in the town’s got bloodstains on his hands.
The Trial is the climactic song of Pink Floyd’s conceptual album, The Wall. The track is presented as a trial throughout the song. At this trial, Pink is confronted by the prosecutor and his primary influences (mother, teacher, and wife) regarding his behavior. In the end, the judge sentences Pink to bring down his walls and be exposed before the people.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Album: The Wall
Lyrics Excerpt: The evidence before the court is incontrovertible. There’s no need for the jury to retire. In all my years of judging, I have never heard before of someone more deserving of the full penalty of law.
Will Your Lawyer Talk to God?
Kitty Wells was one of the first women to shatter the glass ceiling of country music and went on to have a prolific career in country music. This track takes the listener through a separation process that ultimately ends in the couple’s divorce.
Artist: Kitty Wells
Album: Especially for You
Lyrics Excerpt: Your lawyer called and said he had the papers all prepared. To sign my name was all I had to do. He saw the judge, now he seen me, there’s only one thing left. Will your lawyer talk to God for you?
Law and Order Theme
No list of legal-themed songs would be complete without one of the iconic, well-recognized legal tunes on TV. This song has been present since the first episode of Law and Order and was used in all of the related spin-off series. And we would bet that some lawyers out there use this TV theme as their cell phone ring tone still.
Artist: Mike Post
Album: Inventions From the Blue Line
Lyrics Excerpt: Instrumental
Final Thoughts: Why Do You Care?
Legal songs may not up your legal marketing game. However, music is without a doubt a great companion, wherever you are: commuting, at home, or in the office.
Maybe these songs will help you get inspiration, relax, or concentrate on that pleading you have to file. Maybe one of these tracks will appear in your next lawyer commercial. Or maybe these sounds will just be pure entertainment for you. Regardless, it is always nice to see that out of all of the things an artist could write/sing about, people out there think your profession is worth it.