Law and Justice in Popular Music: Murder Ballads

Daniel Carl Newman


Popular music has often talked about themes of relevance to legal scholars, issues such as criminality and social justice. To date, academic legal work has not tended to focus on popular music though, little moving beyond using lyrics to add colour to a dull journal paper or perk up a title. As such, it is fair to say that popular music has not been taken seriously, which is in some contrast to works of literature such as novels or plays. There is a buoyant law and literature movement using such texts to inform legal writing. This paper argues that popular music could and should be considered in a similar light. In so doing, it provides an illustrative case study of music where there are themes that could be of interest to legal scholars and may help inform academic debate: murder ballads and the way these might be used to reach a greater understanding of provocation in the criminal law.

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