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Lyrics and the law: The constitution of law in music

Aaron R. S Lorenz, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This is a study of music as a form of jurisprudence. Political science scholars have focused on researching what they view as "political" music. Sociolegal scholars have done scant research from a theoretical perspective in looking at law having a musical rhythm. Rather than connecting the themes within the music to law, I begin with the perspective that the American law creates and maintains inequality. This premise allows for a dissection of the lyrics of various songs to be connected to each other through grand themes. I argue that various musical artists have created their own form of jurisprudence, often more about justice than present U.S. law. Once establishing what justice entails, and the shortcomings that exist within the system, I work through various themes such as race, gender, and class to demonstrate the comparisons between both political scientists and sociolegal scholars with the musicians. Classic legal theories are incorporated to understand the musicians use of judicial interpretation. Several methodologies are used in this research. Historical analysis establishes the foundation that is necessary to discuss slavery and the genesis of specific genres of music, namely reggae music from Jamaica. While reggae music may be a constant in the project, it is not the sole genre that will be studied. Content analysis of the lyrics, through the prism of the literature, will explain how and why the musicians shape legal discourse. In addition, Supreme Court case law will be studied, specifically relating to First and Fourth Amendment issues. Content analysis in the form of speeches and various interviews will be essential to understanding the goals and actions of the musicians and their impact on legal culture. The result will be an amalgamation of literature that equates musicians with scholars and demonstrates how musicians respond to law.

Subject Area

Political science|Music|Law

Recommended Citation

Lorenz, Aaron R. S, "Lyrics and the law: The constitution of law in music" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3212737.