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.
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.