Friday, September 25, 2015

Federal judge allows 'Paradise' protest song lyrics to remain in lawsuit against Peabody Energy

A federal judge in Wyoming has ruled that a lawsuit filed by environmental activists against Peabody Energy can include lyrics to John Prine’s 1971 protest song, “Paradise,” Andrew Wolfson reports for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. Defendants Thomas Asprey and Leslie Glustrom of Boulder, Colo., who claim in the lawsuit that the company violated their civil rights by having them arrested outside a 2013 shareholders meeting, quoted two verses from Paradise in their complaint. Prine wrote the song about Paradise, Ky., a Western Kentucky town that was once home to his parents and has been replaced by a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant. (MapQuest image: Paradise, Ky., can still be found on some maps despite not existing since 1967)

"Peabody, the nation’s largest coal company, said that quoting the lyrics in the suit was inflammatory and prejudicial, and its lawyers demanded that they be removed," Wolfson writes. "But U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin said in a ruling last week that the song was arguably relevant to the suit and not so 'disconnected, inflammatory or prejudicial as to merit removal.' He questioned how the lyrics could hurt Peabody, given they were written 44 years ago, and said that nothing in them 'degraded Peabody’s moral character, contained repulsive language or disrespected the dignity of the court.'" Asprey and Glustrom argued that the lyrics were important to show Peabody's history.

The song says, in part:
When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born;
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

[Chorus:] And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay?
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking;
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away.

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