For the six-hour-plus roundtrip from Williamsburg to DC for last week's SCOTUS oral arguments in Knick v. Township of Scott, the only assignment our class had -- the ticket for the van ride, so to speak -- was that each student was required to make two contributions to our day's playlist. Otherwise, we'd be in for long stretches of possibly awkward small talk.
The first, a good "road" song. Something to drive to. You know those kind of songs.
The second was a slightly tougher assignment: contribute at least one song that is somehow related to the nature of our class (Law 608: Eminent Domain and Property Rights Law). The contribution need not be directly related to our topic in that it was about eminent domain, property rights, takings, or the like. As long as there was some "hook," and the contributor could make the connection, it was on the list. For example, Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life" would qualify due to its lyrics "for once I can say this is mine, you can't take it," and its theme that love is a powerful force (our clients love their property, one of the reasons they don't like when it is taken).
Now that you have the vibe of the assignment, we now present Law 608's Takings and Road Trip Playlist:
China Grove, The Doobie Brothers (remember, we departed Williamsburg at 4am) - a pure "road" song.
Property Line - Marshall Tucker Band. A song about property that also is a good road tune. It's like the protagonist in the eminent domain film "The Castle," - the singer owner really loves his land and nothing could ever really compensate him for it: "Well my idea of a good time / is walkin' my property line / and knowin' the mud on my boots is mine."
Take on Me - (not the a-ha version, but the one by Reel Big Fish) "Take on meeeeee." This one could qualify for both categories, we think.
Takin' My Land - David Mohr. "This song is based on a true story about a 3rd generation man that was being evicted off his land via Eminent Domain. The saddest facts are that he was not being given true value of his land thus forcing him to go from being independent to dependent upon social services as he could not afford to live anywhere with the small sum of "Market Value" money he was given. After he was forced out, the developers never did develop the land. It was to be a mall of some kind but the real estate market collapsed thus putting a halt to the work. Shortly thereafter, the remaining land was declared "Everglades" so they were no longer able to build anything. The developers, however, received hefty sums from the government in repurchase fees so that the entire plot could be returned to "public" land." More on the story here.
Big Yellow Taxi (again, not the famous original by Joni Mitchell, but the Counting Crows version) - probably "the" most land usey/redevelopment song out there: "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." Ms. Mitchell said she wrote this song after arriving at Honolulu International Airport. The "pink hotel" being the Royal Hawaiian. Anyone who has taken that drive from HNL to Waikiki knows just what she is singing about. Ugh, nasty.
This Land is Your Land - Woodie Guthrie. OK, there's kind of a collectivist vibe to this one, but you remember that during the Kelo controversy, variations on the title became kind of a thing for op-ed and law review authors, i.e., "this land is their land," etc.
Runnin' Down A Dream - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - how could any road trip playlist not include this classic? And the ability to take someone's property easily sure does "run down their dream." OK, that one is a bit of a stretch, but part of the class is trying to help them find their creativity. Mission accomplished.
They're Moving Father's Grave to Build a Sewer - The Clancy Brothers. "They're moving father's grave to build a sewer, they're moving him regardless of expense. They dug up his remains, to put in five-inch drains, to irrigate some posh bloke's residence...." A classic eminent domain song.
Take the Power Back - Rage Against the Machine - a pretty in-your-face song about political power. We get how that's an "eminent domain" song.
Running on Empty - Jackson Browne. Another "road" classic. Also maybe a law school classic? What law student or lawyer hasn't felt like they were "running on empty" as a deadline approached?
Got Your Money - Old Dirty Bastard (feat. Kelis) - while we get fixated on Public Use, we all know that most eminent domain controversies are over Just Compensation. Here are some of the lyrics from the song which are least likely to offend, if you are not already familiar with ODB: "Hey, dirty, baby I got your money. Don't you worry, I said hey, Baby I got your money..."
My City Was Gone - The Pretenders. No, not because the opening riff has become somewhat of a conservative anthem, but rather because like "Big Yellow Taxi," this one has become a redevelopment/blight/urban renewal classic. Law 608 has covered Berman and Midkiff, obviously.
Where the Streets Have No Name - U2. "We're still building then burning down love Burning down love, and when I go there, I go there with you. It's all I can do ... I'll show you a place, high on the desert plain, where the streets have no name ... " A "road" song, but the title also could describe the former Kelo neighborhood.
What's My Age Again - Blink 182. Pretty sure this was a driving song only.
Rubberband Man - Spinners. Due to its inclusion in a recent very popular superhero blockbuster movie, those of us who grew up on this kind of music now have something in common with the young 'uns. A real "road" song.
Wild Horses - Rolling Stones. "Wild horses couldn't drag me away." Anyone who has seen the pain a homeowner feels when their property is taken away, knows why this was included on our list.
Take Me Home - Phil Collins. Both a road song, plus a song about the feeling of going home. (And no, this was not a song about a Jamaican fellow complaining about eminent domain.) A very appropriate way to end the day in DC and head home.