If you are a regular reader of this blog, my bent toward literature and 80's and 90's popular music will not come as a surprise. As I contemplate how lawyers should interface with society, I often think "What would Atticus do?" Well, on Friday the death of Harper Lee was announced. I could not let a week pass without commenting on the life of the woman who created Atticus Finch!
Nelle Harper Lee lived a long and productive life, but it goes without saying that she will be remembered almost exclusively for her debut novel To Kill a Mockingbird. I can go down many paths to celebrate Ms. Lee's life and contributions to not only our profession but also the lives of countless people. Let's face facts, To Kill A Mockingbird has been a must-read for high school students since its publication in 1960. But as I think about Harper Lee, Atticus Finch, and Scout, I feel compelled to celebrate Harper Lee's life with a multi-genre/multi-generational musical tribute to one of the best.
As we make our way through the first few months of 2016, the British rock band Queen's 1980 hit Another One Bites the Dust might best describe our loss of "celebrities" so far this year. But surprise, surprise Another One Bites the Dust is not actually a football anthem. As I was growing up in Detroit, this song often played during the Detroit Lion’s less than successful games. Until recently, I thought Freddie Mercury only sang songs for sports teams. But if you look at the lyrics of this song, it is clear that Freddie and crew might have been as deep as Harper Lee.
Feeling a need to celebrate a female author with a female songstress, I struggle between Sarah McLachlan’s poignant late-90's I Will Remember You or Sinead O’Connor’s iconic rendition of our own Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U. Each song beautifully conveys a heartfelt feeling of awe and remembrance, which I feel for Ms. Lee's characters as well as her other contributions to the literary world (think of Truman Capote).
But Luke Bryan's 2013 Drink a Beer might just say it best, as grappling with the loss of a loved one forces one to contemplate the why and the greater meaning of death. With Harper Lee, however, we are not mourning the death of a friend or a loved one; we are mourning (or maybe more accurately celebrating) the life of an author who, through the power of her imagination, created one of the most iconic legal-literary characters of the 20th century. We should all raise our glasses and drink a beer (or tea) to Ms. Harper Lee.