I like to come up with playlist themes ripped from the headlines, but as easy as it would have been to do a “burning man” or “I’m on fire” playlist, that story scares the hell out of me. It happened in my freakin’ neighbourhood. Lawsuits and being sued isn’t as topical, but they happen all around us every day and, thanks to the wonderful efforts of the Recording Industry Association of America and their legion of (doom) lawyers, they happen to folks who access music via the interweb.
While researching this playlist I did discover that the RIAA is no longer suing downloaders, just working with internet providers to shut downloading down (so there we go, we’re getting our quasi-history lesson out of the way early).
Pavement – “Sue Me, Jack” [from Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe & Reduxe]
It would take the poet laureate of the indie set to come up with a song that essentially says “yeah, whatever” to the notion of lawsuits. The song was a Watery session b-side collected on the Luxe & Reduxe version of Slanted & Enchated. If you call yourself a Pavement fan and haven’t picked up the new version, you can’t call yourself a Pavement fan anymore.
George Harrison – “Sue Me, Sue You Blues” [from Living In The Material World]
The under-appreciated Beatle wrote some great songs. Most of those can be found on All Things Must Pass, but his 1973 follow-up featured this little gem that adapts the do-si-doh-ing of “swing your partners round and round” to read “you serve me and I’ll serve you / swing your partners, all get screwed.” Brilliant.
Frank Sinatra (as Nathan Detroit) – “Sue Me” [from Guys & Dolls: OST]
While my favourite song from Guys & Dolls is “If I Were A Bell” (as performed by Blossom Dearie), the movie version of “Sue Me” finds Frank Sinatra totally nailing the nonchalance of Nathan Detroit on “Sue Me”: “Call a lawyer and sue me / sue me / what can you do me / I love you.”
Leonard Cohen – “The Law” [from Various Positions]
This one really isn’t about lawsuits or being sued, and Cohen uses the Law as a metaphor, but with a line like “you just don’t ask for mercy / while you’re still on the stand,” how can I not include it?
The Clash – “I Fought The Law” [from The Essential Clash]
The problem with fighting the law is that the law isn’t on your side so you’ve got no one to complain to when the law wins. Unless of course your province has an Ombudsman – at least I think that’s what an Ombudsman’s role is… any legal scholars out there to set us right?
Racetrack – “Legal Fees” [from City Lights]
The really unfortunate thing about being named in a lawsuit is that even if it’s thrown out or you’re exonerated, you’re still going to have to cough up the big bucks for the billable hours.
Run-DMC – “It’s Tricky” [from Raising Hell]
The first in a pair of songs not about lawsuits, but involved in lawsuits. Despite being released in 1986, the Knack apparently didn’t hear this Run-DMC hit song until 2005. In 2007 they sued the rap trio for illegally sampling “My Sharona” for “It’s Tricky.” The suit has yet to be settled.
Coldplay – “Viva La Vida” [from Viva La Vida]
This is the one that Coldplay got sued by Joe Satriani over. He claims the UK band stole substantial portions of his song “If I Could Fly.” It’s also the song my mom can’t get enough of.
Chuck Brodsky – “Talk To My Lawyer” [from Letters In The Dirt]
Brodsky, a true ‘man of the people’ folksinger, takes the piss out of frivolous lawsuits in this tale of a slip-and-fall outside of City Hall where the protagonist is encouraged to sue by a lawyer who helps him up. He goes on to lambaste the person who sued a restaurant when they spilt hot coffee on their lap. A classic in American jurisprudence.
Geoff Berner – “My Dad’s A Lawyer” [from Light Enough To Travel]
Another folksinger taking the piss; Berner basically challenges the listener to take a swing at him for his singing because he’ll sue and send you to jail for doing so. It may be the only time the line “My dad’s a lawyer,” is followed by “doo doo doo doo doo.”