Name That Tune

Many instructors will use music as a way to start a class session.  A short musical piece, played just before or right at the start of the lecture period, can be an effective means of relaxing students prior to the start of class.  And a relaxed student is one that is more open to the learning experience.

One other way that music can be used for teaching (or learning, for that matter)  is to set up a theme or point that might be explored during the lecture, or to use as a kind of mnemonic device for studying.   I’ve used music in this way during my constitutional law course.  Recently, Prof. Kevin McGuire (U of North Carolina- Chapel Hill) offered a link to his web page exploring linkages between the members of the Supreme Court and rock music: .  In that vein, I offer a partial list of songs that I think are useful and fun for constitutional law.

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder—Marbury v. Madison (This was actually suggested by a student—I also like “Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes; alternate version by the Beatles)

“When I’m 64” by the Beatles—Steward Machine v. Davis

“Freight Train” by Elizabeth Cotten or any number of folks singers—discussion of the evolution of the Commerce Clause post-Civil War and the role of railroads in that expansion

“Bread and Roses” by Judy Collins or other folk singers for Muller v. Oregon

“You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King (also version by James Taylor) for discussion of West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (the switch in time that saved nine)

“Love Potion Number 9” by the Searchers for NFIB v. Sebelius

“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, for the reemergence of the expansive commerce clause interpretation in Garcia v. SAMTA

“Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix for Gonzalez v. Raich

I think you get the idea.  There are lots of ways to spin this and lots more songs to be used (certainly, more recent songs, but with so many covers of older pop songs, they can still work for today’s students).   And it’s a nice way to set a tone for class.


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