Baby, Won't You Come On Back With Me
to My Swingin' Legal Pad?
June 30, 2008
Via the New York Times by way of Idolator, it's:
- [Insert Song Lyrics Here]: The Uses and Misuses of Popular Music Lyrics in Legal Writing, 64 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 531 (2007)
This ostensibly scholarly article by Alex B. Long, formerly of the Oklahoma City University School of Law, now of the University of Tennessee, examines at length -- well, exactly what the subtitle says it examines at length. It includes a completely unscientific chart purporting to demonstrate that Bob Dylan is the most quoted songwriter in legal opinions and scholarship. It also includes, at footnote 198, the only manifestation I have yet seen in a law review article of the idiomatic expression, "Buwah ha ha."
In this anecdote early in the piece, Justice Alito meets The Boss:
Aside from aiding a writer in the quest to communicate about a particular issue, the use of popular music may also humanize an individual in the eyes of others. During the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings, for example, the news media enthusiastically reported that the conservative Alito was a fan of Bruce Springsteen. Not willing to cede his blue collar bona fides to the likes of Republican appointee Alito, Senator Richard Durbin took things a step further by using a line from an interview with Springsteen against Alito:
They once asked [Springsteen]: How do you come up with the songs that you write and the characters that are in them? And he said, I have a familiarity with the crushing hand of fate. It's a great line. I want to ask you about the crushing hand of fate in several of your decisions.
The article concludes with an unexpected discussion of The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks." "'Teenage Kicks'," observes the professor, "has universality and verisimilitude to burn, but it’s unlikely anyone is ever going to use it to advance any sort of argument in legal writing. [Footnote 273: Other than me, I mean.]"
Since Everybody Who Is Anybody -- blogospheric worthies the like of Harry at Crooked Timber and Ed. at Blawg Review -- has been linking to performances of the The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain over these past 48 hours, I will jump at this opening go there as well. Ladies and gentlemen, the UOGB's rendition of the aforementioned "Teenage Kicks":
This is pretty good stuff, but it is as nothing compared to the Orchestra's brilliant rendition of David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" -- a song that goes uncited by Prof. Long, notwithstanding the lyric that advises us to "take a look at those law men beating up the wrong guy."