Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Property Songs

Friend of the blog, Rebecca Tushnet, has alerted me that Patrick Stump's song "The City," which includes a lyric about gentrification is available for free on iTunes (limited time only!).  As this blog has highlighted from time to time, there are a handful of other songs out there with property themes.  Take for example, Signs, made famous by Tesla:  

And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight.
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in.
If God was here, he'd tell you to your face, man you're some kinda sinner.

Alabama's Song of the South could be used to introduce mortgage foreclosure:

Well somebody told us wall street fell
But we were so poor that we couldn't tell.
Cotton was short and the weeds were tall
But Mr. Roosevelt's a gonna save us all.

Well momma got sick and daddy got down.
The county got the farm and they moved to town.
Pappa got a job with the TVA
He bought a washing machine and then a Chevrolet.

Al Brophy has blogged about Property Line by The Marshall Tucker Band.  That song includes a real property gem:

    Well my idea of a good time
    Is walkin’ my property line
    And knowin’ the mud on my boots is mine.

Then, of course, there are a slew of songs about crummy landlords.  In this category I've got Bob Dylan's Dear Landlord, The Police's Landlord, and Living Colour's Open Letter (To A Landlord).  Worst use of "community property" in a song lyric probably goes to Steel Panter for a song so filthy that I can't even link to it on a family blog.

Have I missed any other classics?  Does anybody out there use songs in class to spice things up?  How does it work? 

Steve Clowney

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As a Hoosier, I must point out Mr. Mellencamp's classic "Rain on the Scarecrow":

Scarecrow on a wooden cross, blackbird in the barn
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
I grew up like my daddy did, my grandpa cleared this land
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand

Rain on the scarecrow, blood on the plow
This land fed a nation, this land made me proud
And son I'm just sorry there's no legacy for you now

Posted by: Tanya Marsh | Aug 17, 2011 7:59:29 AM

The Land Song

(To the tune of Marching Through Georgia.)

Sound the call for freedom boys, and sound it far and wide,
March along to victory, for God is on our side,
While the voice of nature thunders o'er the rising tide:
"God gave the land to the people."


The land, the land,
'Twas God who made the land,
The land, the land,
The ground on which we stand,
Why should we be beggars
With a ballot in our hand?
God gave the land to the people.

Hark! The sound is spreading from the east and from the west!
Why should we work hard and let the landlords take the best?
Make them pay their taxes on the land just like the rest!
The land was meant for the people.


Clear the way for liberty, the land must all be free,
None of us shall falter from the fight tho' stern shall be.
'Til the flag we love so well shall fly from sea to sea,
O'er the land that is free for the people.


The army now is marching on, the battle to begin,
The standard now is raised on high to face the battle din,
We'll never cease from fighting 'til the victory we win,
And the land is free for the people.

Background: In 1879, in San Francisco, Henry George (b. 1839, Philadelphia, d. 1897, NYC) wrote a book entitled "Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy." Initially self-published, it went on to become the highest-selling book ever on political economy, and was second only to the Bible in copies sold between 1880 and 1900. George was, with Edison and Twain, one of the best-known, most-discussed people in America, and everyone knew his ideas. Single Tax clubs were in many towns. The Single Tax was George's remedy for many of the ills which afflicted our society then -- and now, which he traced to the privatization of the economic rent from Land (that is, that which attaches to natural resources and sites, as distinct from that which is created by labor -- those who work -- and capital -- savings).

The reference to "free land" is that if we are all paying to our community the annual rental value of the land, it can change hands for a nominal price, plus the value of the improvements the seller and his predecessors have made. We'd likely not need to tax sales, or wages, or buildings, and we'd have more opportunity, less poverty, and less reliance on social safety nets. We'd also have less concentration of wealth and income. (Guess why most people have never heard of it! Check out Gaffney and Harrison's book "The Corruption of Economics" for details.)

You can read P&P (a modern abridgment) at and A recent book entitled "Re-solving the Economic Puzzle" is available on Amazon. Mason Gaffney's writings at, perhaps starting with "The Great Crash of 2008," "How to Thaw Credit, Now and Forever," "New Life for Old Cities," "Repopulating New Orleans" and a book entitled "After the Crash", also available through jstor, might be of interest. [American Journal of Economics and Sociology, perhaps a year or two ago, also published as a book by Wiley.]

And you might consider this list of songs:

1) Billy Bragg Blake's Jerusalem 1804
2) Woodie Guthrie This Land Is Your Land 1940
3) The Yardbirds Shapes of Things 1966
4) The Beatles Taxman 1966
5) The Turtles Earth Anthem 1968
6) Bob Dylan Dear Landlord 1968
7) Joni Mitchell Big Yellow Taxi 1970
8) Spirit Nature’s Way 1970
9) The Guess Who Share the Land 1971
10) Ten Years After I’d Love to Change the World 1971
11) Carole King A Quiet Place to Live 1973
12) Isley Brothers Harvest for the World 1976
13) Pretenders My City Was Gone 1982
14) Big Country In a Big Country 1983
15) Genesis Land of Confusion 1986
16) U2 In God’s Country 1986
17) Midnight Oil Beds Are Burning 1987
18) Simple Minds This Is Your Land 1989
19) B-52s Revolution Earth 1991
20) R.E.M. Ignoreland 1992
21) Dave Matthews One Sweet World 1993
22) Jonathan Larson Rent (musical) 1994
23) Midnight Oil Common Ground 1996
24) Narnia Revolution of Mother Earth 2001
25) Libera I Vow to Thee My Country 2006
26) Billy Bragg This Land Is Your Land (UK) 2006

and here's #1, which you might recognize from The Proms:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green
And was the holy lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen

And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills

Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spears o'clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

Posted by: LVTfan | Aug 17, 2011 9:29:17 AM

Last year, after the grades were in, two students from my first-year property class gave me Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" CD, as I understand it, because of a class I devote to the legal history of suburban residential housing in the midst of a unit on nonpossessory interests.

Posted by: Dan Ernst | Aug 17, 2011 1:20:23 PM

This was very useful for an online site I am building for students in my property elective on strata and community title (condos and HOAs).
I'd add
Kate Miiler-Heidke "Apartment"
Ben Folds "Rockin the Suburbs"
Flight of the Conchords "Inner City Stress"
and "Little Boxes".
I love the fact LVTfan had so much Midnight Oil on your list! I am proud to say that the lead singer is a graduate of our law school (and now our Federal Minister for Education.)

Posted by: Cathy Sherry | Jul 9, 2012 8:19:28 PM

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