A rock’n’roll lawyer – Talker

Fabrice Epstein is between two worlds, justice and music. High risk avocado and sulphurous rock. He publishes a new book, rock’n’roll justice

“Shall we meet near Père-Lachaise? Close to Morrison? “It is with these words that Fabrice Epstein, lawyer at the court and passionate about rock in the city, gives me an appointment. He pulls out a new book, Rock’n’roll Justice, where some of the columns he writes each month for rock & folk. These are legal chronicles, a little romanticized, to which the author breathes an almost mythological aspect because, yes, rock’n’roll is a mythology, with its epic, its gods, its sound and its fury. From simple plagiarism to assassination. “Rock’n’roll saved my life”, said Lou Reed. I don’t know if rock’n’roll saved Fabrice Epstein’s life, but it saved his recovery, when he broke his leg at the age of ten and listened to the his father’s Pink Floyd albums. Rock fans know it, to access the sacred word, whether that of Elvis or the Sex Pistols, you need a passer. And for Fabrice, it was simply his father.

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“I didn’t want to write yet another rock book, what more could I bring? Jsearched all over the internet, and found that there was nothing on the legal history of rock’n’roll. » Never mind, he decides to bring together these two terms that do not necessarily go together: rock and the law. I fought the law and the law won », sang the Clash, and Fabrice Epstein understood it well. This man with soft blue eyes, with false airs of Woody Allen, likes challenges. In 2014, he defended a Rwandan genocidaire, Pascal Simbikangwa, before the Paris Assize Court. But for this grandson of a Holocaust survivor, it was more than a challenge. Why did he do it? He explained it in A genocide for example (The deer). It was for him a means of confronting this heavy heritage which can condition the life of its depositaries. Put the burden on the ground to keep moving forward.


But back to our troublemakers. “Like justice, rock tells stories, allows us to better understand human beings, to deepen their behavior”, says Epstein. This is what is fascinating in his book: he tells stories. The bands and singers of the 1960s who cheerfully plagiarized each other, the crooked managers, including that of Elvis, the famous “Colonel Parker”, and the murderers, like Phil Spector, legendary producer, or Sid Vicious, the bass player of the Sex Pistols, symbol of “live fast, die young”. All of this is written in a rich, colorful style, with a plethora of biblical references, because rock’n’roll is the foundation: “There was a time when people were waiting for a Beatles and Dylan record to come out like the Hebrews on the 11the commandment. »

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In 1976, Georges Harrison, guitarist of the Beatles – one of the gods of the rock’n’rollesque pantheon – was accused of plagiarism for his hit My Sweet Lord. From the intro, we recognize the melody of He’s so fine, the Chiffons hit, a New York girls band, minus the Hindu twists. Harrison is ordered to pay $587,000 to the record company. He pleads unintentional plagiarism, and this is interesting because, for Carl Jung, “the music touches such deep archetypal material, that those who play it do not realize it”. So it’s possible that Harrison was telling the truth. In the blessed era of the 60s, music circulated and linked its heralds to each other, like a mysterious Ariadne’s thread.

Jim Morrison: “Do you want to see my…”

Scandal, rock’n’roll, outlaw music, has continued to cause scandal by shaking up the established order. “Whoever blasphemes the Lord by name shall be put to death”, we read in Leviticus (24:16). When Lennon, in an interview granted to an American journalist, affirms that the Beatles are more famous than Jesus, he provokes an uproar and is actually threatened with death! But that quote is just a snippet taken out of context. What he says is much more interesting: “Christianity will go away, it will decrease and it will disappear […], we are more popular than Jesus, but I don’t know which will disappear first, rock’n’roll or Christianity. » I always thought that rock’n’roll, with its rituals, its disciples and its prophets (each his own), was the last avatar of Christianity. Today, it is said that rock is dead, sacrificed on the altar of the society of the spectacle – among other things -, but miracle workers parade at its bedside, and Fabrice Epstein is one of them (he shares his surname with Beatles manager Brian Epstein).

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The prophets have been numerous, and each more sulphurous than the other. Jim Morrison is one, a real one, with his concerts that look like masses defying all moral order. 1er March 1969, playing in Miami, drunk and belching, he threatens to show his sex on stage: “Do you want to see my…” He was tried for exhibitionism, drunkenness, contempt of good morals and sentenced, without any evidence, to six months in prison. To escape his sentence, the “Lizard King” fled to Paris. This is where he died on July 3, 1971.

Rock’n’roll Justice also includes a chapter on imaginary trials in which Master Epstein imagines himself pleading the case of Sid Vicious, accused of the murder of his girlfriend, but who has never appeared before a judge: he dies of an overdose before his trial…

Always being on the losing side, beautiful or not, that could be a definition of rock’n’roll.

Fabrice Epstein Rock’n’roll JusticeThe Book Factory, 2021.

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