I Fought The Law – Who’s Version Is The Best?

Breakin’ rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money ’cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I left my baby and it feels so bad
Guess my race is run
She’s the best girl that I ever had
I fought the law and the law won
 Fifty one years ago this month, “I Fought The Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four hit the Billboard Singles Chart.   Rolling Stone Magazine ranks the defiant classic as #175 on their list of the greatest rock and roll songs of all-time. The song comes two decades before Punk Rock took off but it’s attitude captured the spirit and has become a standard for anarchists for years. Is Bobby Fuller’s the best version?    Want to guess how many artists have taken at stab at covering the hit song?   Easily fifty notable covers have been recorded by artists as diverse as Hank Williams Jr., Bruce Springsteen,  Tom Petty, The Grateful Dead, Alvin And The Chipmunks (you don’t get more gangsta than these rodents), and Nanci Griffith.   And these covers don’t even crack the Top 5 definitive versions of “I Fought The Law”. Although Bobby Fuller gets credit for taking the song to its highest chart level, his version is actually a cover too! “I Fought The Law” was written by Sonny Curtis, a member of Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets. Late in Sonny’s career he performed it live with Brian May of Queen. Let’s check out the Top 5:

In a version that felt a little true to life, the San Francisco punk rockers changed up the lyrics to provide some political commentary about the murder of Harvey Milk. Jello Biafra shouted “I Fought The Law so I won!” after Dan White who assassinated the SF political figure was found not guilty of first degree murder on a technicality now called the “Twinkie defense”.

Many argued that Green Day wasn’t a true punk band and they got the dreaded “Pop Punk” moniker, but you can’t deny they brought the genre back into the spotlight. Green Day’s cover become an MTV hit and exposed a new generation to the song.

No other version cranks up the electric guitars louder than Brian Setzer did in their cover.

There’s a reason why modern movies and video games go back to the original, it’s pure rockabilly and you’ve got to love how choreographed the female dancers keep up with the groove! Ironically Bobby Fuller died shortly after the song became a huge hit and some question if it was suicide or an unsolved murder.

If you’re going to cover a song that embodies the punk rock attitude, you might as go with one of the greatest punk rock bands of all-time. Nicky Headon’s drum solo to kick off the song can’t be topped and Joe Strummer totally rips into the chorus. It was the first single for The Clash in the U.S.