alex long has written a fun working paper on uses and misuses of popular music lyrics in legal writing. as is my custom, i skipped immediately to the data. i worked up a li’l spreadsheet with the most cited artists in both law journals and legal opinions.

the list is a familiar but disappointing catalog of self-consciously respectable boomer-friendly aging or dead white males: dylan, beatles, springsteen, simon, et alia. professor long himself cites the stooges’ raw power, but this stuff hasn’t made it into legal scholarship. he even drops a li’l lester on us in the footnotes:

[I]t’s harder than hangnails to … even have a little moronic fun these days without
some codifying crypto-academic … swooping down to rape your stance and leave you shivering fish-naked in the cultural welfare line. So I wouldn’t blame you for hating me for this article at all.

i don’t hate you, dude. in fact, i’ve gotta love a lawprof who can go deep on lester bangs. still, this leaves me with two questions:

first, would the sociology list look any edgier? i doubt it. nirvana, rage, james brown, or marvin gaye might pop up — and i know i’ve seen gang of four in more than one context — but i’d wager the soc list would pretty much replicate the lawlist. personally, i tried to cite social distortion in contexts once (“a broken nose, a broken heart, an empty bottle of gin” in a review of laub and sampson), but it was excised before it hit the newstands. so it goes.

second, i’ve always wanted to drop the pistols’ pretty vacant into a title but never quite found the proper setting. which great song titles are just sitting there, crying out for a hunk-a hunk-a burnin’ sociological research?