Table of Contents
- 1. ‘I Fought The Law’ – The Clash
- 2. ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ – Bob Marley
- 3. ‘Police and Thieves’ – Junior Murvin
- 4. ‘Crime in the City’ – Neil Young
- 5. ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ – Supergrass
- 6. ‘Bankrobber’ – The Clash
- 7. ‘Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.’ – Simon & Garfunkel
- 8. ‘Gallows Pole’ – Led Zeppelin
- 9. ‘JailBreak’ – Thin Lizzy
- 10. ‘Coming Into Los Angeles’ – Arlo Guthrie
- 11. ‘Take The Money & Run’ – Steve Miller Band
- 12. ‘The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde’ – Georgie Fame
- 13. ‘Shoplifters Of The World Unite’ – The Smiths
- 14. ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ – The Traveling Wilburys
- 15. ‘Seven Curses’ – Bob Dylan
- 16. ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – Johnny Cash
- 17. ‘Hey Joe’ – Jimi Hendrix
- 18. ‘The Great Filling Station Hold Up’ – Jimmy Buffett
Songs about breaking the law have always been a popular theme in music. From classic rock to hip hop and everything in between, artists have used music as a platform to express their views on the justice system, societal norms, and personal experiences with the law. The songs can range from glorifying criminal behavior to protesting against injustice and police brutality.
One of the most iconic songs in this category is “I Fought the Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four, which tells the story of a man who is arrested and sent to prison for breaking the law. The song has been covered by numerous artists over the years, including The Clash and Green Day, and has become a symbol of rebellion and anti-authority.
Another notable song is “Cop Killer” by Ice-T, which caused controversy upon its release in 1992 due to its violent lyrics and depiction of police brutality. The song was heavily criticized by law enforcement groups and led to protests and boycotts. However, Ice-T defended the song as a form of protest against police brutality and corruption.
Other songs about breaking the law include “99 Problems” by Jay-Z, “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire, “Bad Boys” by Inner Circle, “Smuggler’s Blues” by Glenn Frey, and “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. Each song offers a unique perspective on the justice system and the consequences of breaking the law.
While some may argue that these songs promote criminal behavior, others see them as a way to address societal issues and challenge the status quo. Music has always been a powerful tool for expressing emotions and bringing attention to important issues, and songs about breaking the law are no exception.
1. ‘I Fought The Law’ – The Clash
“I Fought The Law” is a song originally written by Sonny Curtis of the Crickets, but it was The Bobby Fuller Four and later The Clash who made it famous. The Clash’s cover became a punk rock classic, with its driving rhythm, catchy guitar riffs and politically charged lyrics. The song tells the story of a criminal who rebels against the law and is eventually caught by the police. It’s a perfect representation of the punk ethos of the time, which often questioned authority and rebelled against the status quo. The song remains a beloved punk rock anthem and a testament to the genre’s enduring popularity.
2. ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ – Bob Marley
“I Shot The Sheriff” is a classic reggae song by Bob Marley, released in 1973. The song tells the story of a man who admits to shooting the town sheriff but claims that he did so in self-defense. The song was written in the context of Jamaican politics at the time, where the police force was viewed as corrupt and oppressive. The song became a worldwide hit and has been covered by numerous artists, including Eric Clapton, who had a successful rendition of the song in 1974. The song’s catchy melody and message of standing up against unjust authority have made it a timeless classic.
3. ‘Police and Thieves’ – Junior Murvin
“Police and Thieves” is a reggae song written by Junior Murvin and Lee “Scratch” Perry. It was originally released in 1976 and became an anthem for the Jamaican political and social upheaval of the time. The lyrics talk about the conflict between the police and the people they are supposed to protect, with Murvin’s falsetto voice delivering a sense of urgency and desperation. The song was later covered by The Clash, who added their own punk rock edge to the track. “Police and Thieves” remains a classic example of reggae music’s power to comment on social issues and promote change.
4. ‘Crime in the City’ – Neil Young
“Crime in the City” is a rock song by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young, released on his 1989 album “Freedom”. The song tells a story of a man who is forced to take the law into his own hands after witnessing a crime in his city. The lyrics reflect the dark side of urban life and the difficulty of finding justice in a corrupt system. The song features Neil Young’s signature distorted guitar sound and a driving beat that builds to a powerful climax. “Crime in the City” is a poignant commentary on the societal issues that continue to plague urban centers around the world.
5. ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ – Supergrass
“Caught By The Fuzz” is a song by British rock band Supergrass, released in 1995. The song tells the story of the lead singer, Gaz Coombes, being caught with cannabis by the police when he was only fifteen years old. The lyrics describe the adrenaline-fueled chase and the fear of being caught by the authorities. The fast-paced guitar riffs and energetic drums create a sense of urgency and excitement, capturing the feeling of a teenage rebellion against the law. The song became a hit and helped establish Supergrass as one of the prominent bands in the Britpop movement of the 1990s.
6. ‘Bankrobber’ – The Clash
“Bankrobber” is a reggae-influenced punk rock song by The Clash. The lyrics tell the story of a bank robber on the run and his struggles to evade the authorities. The song was released as a single in 1980 and later included on the band’s album “Black Market Clash.” The track features a distinctive dub-inspired bassline and a catchy chorus, with lead vocals split between Mick Jones and Joe Strummer. “Bankrobber” was well-received by critics and remains a fan favorite, exemplifying the band’s ability to blend different genres into their unique punk rock sound.
7. ‘Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.’ – Simon & Garfunkel
“Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” is a folk ballad by Simon & Garfunkel that tells the story of a man who has been arrested and is waiting in jail for his lover to come and bail him out. The song captures the emotions of someone who has made a mistake and is now facing the consequences of their actions. With haunting harmonies and acoustic guitar, the song showcases Simon & Garfunkel’s early sound and sets the stage for their later success as folk icons. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of a moment in time and leave the listener wondering about the fate of the protagonist.
8. ‘Gallows Pole’ – Led Zeppelin
“Gallows Pole” is a traditional folk song that was famously covered by Led Zeppelin on their 1970 album “Led Zeppelin III”. The song tells the story of a man who is given a choice between hanging from a gallows pole or giving up his worldly possessions to the hangman. It features a driving acoustic guitar riff and bluesy vocals from Robert Plant, with haunting harmonies from Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. The song is a powerful and visceral exploration of themes like justice, morality, and the consequences of one’s actions, and remains a staple of Led Zeppelin’s live performances.
9. ‘JailBreak’ – Thin Lizzy
“Jailbreak” is a high-energy rock song by the Irish band Thin Lizzy, released in 1976. The song tells the story of a group of prisoners who plan a daring escape from jail, with the lyrics filled with vivid imagery of their struggle to break free. The driving guitar riffs, tight rhythm section, and Phil Lynott’s powerful vocals all come together to create an intense, anthemic rock tune. “Jailbreak” has become one of Thin Lizzy’s most popular songs, and it’s still a staple of classic rock radio today, loved for its hard-edged sound and rebellious spirit.
10. ‘Coming Into Los Angeles’ – Arlo Guthrie
“Coming into Los Angeles” is a lively and humorous song by Arlo Guthrie. The song tells the story of a young man smuggling drugs into Los Angeles and encountering all sorts of humorous and unexpected obstacles along the way. The song features catchy guitar riffs and a memorable chorus, making it a popular folk-rock hit. Released in 1969, the song became an anthem of the counterculture movement of the time and was even performed by Guthrie at the legendary Woodstock festival. With its fun and playful tone, “Coming into Los Angeles” remains a beloved classic in the folk-rock genre.
11. ‘Take The Money & Run’ – Steve Miller Band
“Take The Money & Run” is a classic rock song by the Steve Miller Band, released in 1976. The upbeat song tells the story of two young lovers, Billy Joe and Bobby Sue, who go on a crime spree after robbing a bank. The catchy chorus and driving guitar riffs make it a fan favorite at live shows, while the lyrics reflect the rebellious spirit of the 1970s counterculture. The song’s popularity helped propel the album “Fly Like an Eagle” to the top of the charts, and it remains a staple on classic rock radio to this day.
12. ‘The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde’ – Georgie Fame
“The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde” is a song by British R&B/soul singer Georgie Fame, released in 1967. The song tells the infamous story of Bonnie and Clyde, the notorious American criminal couple who went on a crime spree during the Great Depression. The tune is upbeat, with Fame’s signature jazzy piano riffs and catchy horn section. The lyrics depict the duo’s exploits in a romanticized light, as if they were folk heroes. The song became a hit in the UK, peaking at number one on the charts, and has since become a classic in the canon of 1960s pop.
13. ‘Shoplifters Of The World Unite’ – The Smiths
“Shoplifters of the World Unite” is a classic track by The Smiths, released in 1987. The song is a commentary on the politics of the time, with Morrissey (the lead vocalist) taking aim at the Thatcher government and its economic policies. The lyrics are filled with clever wordplay and satirical jabs, while the melody is catchy and upbeat. The chorus, with its call to arms for “the shoplifters of the world,” has become an iconic rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt oppressed or marginalized. The song is a testament to The Smiths’ enduring influence on the indie rock scene.
14. ‘Tweeter and the Monkey Man’ – The Traveling Wilburys
“Tweeter and the Monkey Man” is a song by The Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup consisting of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. The song tells a story of a criminal couple named Tweeter and the Monkey Man who engage in various illegal activities such as robbery, car theft, and drug trafficking. The lyrics are full of references to classic rock and folk songs and characters, such as the New Jersey Turnpike and the Jersey Devil. The song’s upbeat melody and catchy chorus make it a memorable addition to the Traveling Wilburys’ catalogue.
15. ‘Seven Curses’ – Bob Dylan
“Seven Curses” is a traditional folk song that was popularized by Bob Dylan on his 1963 album, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” The song tells the story of a man who is cursed by seven different people for various transgressions. Each curse is more severe than the last, and the man eventually succumbs to his fate. Dylan’s haunting vocals and fingerpicking guitar work create a sense of foreboding throughout the song, making it a standout track on an album full of classic folk tunes. “Seven Curses” is a prime example of Dylan’s ability to breathe new life into traditional songs.
16. ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – Johnny Cash
“Folsom Prison Blues” is a classic country and western song by Johnny Cash that tells the story of a man locked up in Folsom Prison for committing murder. The lyrics convey the bleakness of prison life and the feeling of being trapped, but also touch on the hope of redemption and a chance for a better life. The song’s driving rhythm and Cash’s distinctive vocal style create a haunting and powerful atmosphere that has made it a timeless classic. It has been covered by numerous artists and is widely regarded as one of the greatest country songs of all time.
17. ‘Hey Joe’ – Jimi Hendrix
“Hey Joe” is a song originally written and recorded by the American folk singer Billy Roberts in 1962, but it was made famous by Jimi Hendrix’s cover in 1966. The song tells the story of a man who has shot his lover and is now on the run from the law. The lyrics are haunting and intense, with Hendrix’s electrifying guitar solos adding to the dramatic feel of the song. “Hey Joe” has become a classic rock standard and has been covered by numerous artists over the years, solidifying its place in music history as a song about breaking the law.
18. ‘The Great Filling Station Hold Up’ – Jimmy Buffett
“The Great Filling Station Holdup” is a playful and upbeat song by American singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, featured on his 1974 album, “A1A.” The song tells a story about a gas station robbery and the humorous misadventures of the robber. The catchy melody and witty lyrics, along with Buffett’s signature tropical-infused sound, make for an enjoyable and lighthearted listening experience. The song’s unique blend of country, rock, and island influences reflects Buffett’s eclectic musical style and has made it a fan favorite at his live shows.