Bob Dylan: Nobel Prize in Literature and Legal Muse

GeorgiaLeeLang057This past weekend I saw Bob Dylan perform in concert in Indio, California, a musical extravaganza that featured Dylan, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, The Who, and Paul McCartney, but it was Dylan’s weekend, as he was feted by his fellow artists for his Nobel Prize in Literature. He joins luminaries such as Jean Paul Sartre, Alice Munro, Doris Lessing, John Steinbeck, Albert Camus, Boris Pasternak, Harold Pinter, Toni Morrison, and many others, 113 awarded thus far.

As relevant today as he was in the turbulent 60’s, Dylan’s music and lyrics captured the imagination of a whole generation and became the soundtrack for America’s civil rights and anti-war movements. And his poetry remains as profound today as fifty years ago.

University of Tennessee  Professor Alex Long scoured legal databases for the year 2007 and found that Bob Dylan’s lyrics were cited in Reasons for Judgment 186 times, compared to 74 for the Beatles, 69 for Bruce Springsteen,  Paul Simon, 59; Woody Guthrie, 43; the Rolling Stones, 39; the Grateful Dead, 32; Simon & Garfunkel, 30; Joni Mitchell, 28; and R.E.M., 27.

Several appellate judges in California have said “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowin’ ” from the song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in reference to the fact that an expert isn’t required to offer an opinion when any layperson could discern the facts.

Even the United State Supreme Court has relied on Dylan’s lyrics to make a point. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. quoted Dylan’s line “If you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose” from his song “Like a Rolling Stone”.

And the late Justice Antonin Scalia, in a case involving privacy protection for employees that use company email, said “The times they are a-changing’ is a feeble excuse for disregard of duty”.

I wonder if a Judge will ever recite this line from Dylan’s “Hurricane” , Dylan’s ode to wrongfully convicted Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

“The trial was a pig-circus he never had a chance”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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