Banned lyrics, or band lyrics that have been banned
are nothing new. Banned band lyrics have made their mark by a variety
of censors over the past 50 years. The most frequently banned lyrics
have contained themes of sexuality, violence, race, politics and
Even though mores and values have changed over the past half a
century, lyrics are still being banned by a variety of sources the
world over. One just has to look as far as the Dixie Chicks shortly
after the Iraq War started or the 2007 Eurovision controversy over
an Israeli band's political lyrics to know that censorship is alive
But, let's take a look at some of the more publicized banned lyrics
from the 1950's to today, so that one can see that even though things
change, some things remain the same.
Banned Lyrics - 1950s
Dean Martin's hit song "Wham Bam, Thank You Ma'am" is
banned by radio stations for having suggestive lyrics. "There
Stands the Glass" by Webb Pierce is banned from radio play
for lyrics that promote drinking. The lyrics of a Cole Porter classic,
"I Get A Kick Out of You" are changed for airplay due
to a reference to cocaine.
Rosemary Clooney's hit "Mambo Italiano" for having lyrics
void of good taste. Pat Boone starts recording and sanitizing T-Bone
Walker's lyrics that contain messages of drinking and sexuality.
Billie Holiday's version of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale"
is banned for references to prostitution. The novelty song "Transfusion"
by Dot and Diamond by NBC, ABC and CBS for grossness. Lloyd Price's
original lyrics to "Stagger Lee" are banned for themes
Banned Lyrics - 1960s
Bob Dylan's lyrics for "Talking John Birch Paranoid Blues"
are banned from the Ed Sullivan Show. The lyrics for the
Kingsmen hit "Louie, Louie" were temporarily banned for
sexual content. The lyrics to the Barry McGuire song "Eve of
Destruction" were banned for containing themes of suicidal
Radio stations across the country banned The Who's hit sing "Pictures
of Lily" for masturbation lyrics. Frank Zappa's lyrics in "Money"
were altered by MGM Records because of a sexual reference. Radio
stations banned The Swinging Medallions' lyrics to "Double
Shot (of My Baby's Love" because of sexual references.
In order to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Rolling
Stones agree to alter the lyrics to "Let's Spend The Night
Together". Radio stations banned Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed
Girl" because of the mention of pre-marital sex and teenage
pregnancy. Jim Morrison temporarily agreed to change the lyrics
to "Light My Fire" for the Ed Sullivan Show so
that the listening public would not hear the words "Girl we
couldn't get much higher", but when live and on air, sang those
very same words.
Banned Lyrics - 1970s
A handful of radio stations across the country without consent,
alter the lyrics to John Lennon's song "Working Class Hero".
U. S. radio stations banned Bob Dylan's lyrics to "George Jackson"
because of its political nature and an obscenity in the words. The
lyrics to Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" are changed
without knowledge or consent by their record label Chrysalis Records
over an anatomical reference.
The lyrics to John Lennon's song "Woman is the Nigger of the
World" are banned by radio stations across the U. S. as they
misunderstood the words to be racist and anti-female. John Denver's
hit song "Rocky Mountain High," is banned by radio stations
for a possible drug reference. Loretta Lynn's song "The Pill"
is banned for talking about birth control. The Sex Pistol's song
"God Save the Queen" was banned by the BBC since the lyrics
were said to be too political and unpatriotic.
Banned Lyrics - 1980s
Mercury Records bans Frank Zappa's song "I Don't Wanna Get
Drafted" and refused to release the single. Olivia Newton John's
hit song "Physical" is banned by Utah radio stations for
being too suggestive for the Mormon population. Al Hudson's song
"Let's Talk" is banned by radio stations across the country
for sexual lyrics after a warning by MCA Records is released.
Sheena Easton's hit song "Sugar Walls" is banned by American
Bandstand because the lyrics have been targeted by the Parents
Music Resource Center (PMRC) as being sexually suggestive. After
his death, Marvin Gaye's song "Sanctified Pussy" is rewritten
as "Sanctified Lady" by the record company. Radio stations
across the country ban George Michael's song "I Want Your Sex"
because of sexual lyrics.
Banned Lyrics - 1990s
In Florida, 2 Live Crew's song "Me So Horney" is banned
for sexual lyrics. A judge in Tennessee ruled that all of 2 Live
Crew's "Nasty As They Wanna Be" and N.W.A.'s "Straight
Outta Compton" lyrics are obscene under state law and thus
banned. In regard to the 2 Live Crew song, four other states follow
suit including Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
A Nebraska radio station banned lyrics from K. D. Lang because
of her anti-meat beliefs. Wal-Mart discount stores banned Sheryl
Crow's self-titled CD because of the lyrics in her song "Love
Is A Good Thing" depicted gun violence using Wal-Mart products.
Insane Clown Posse's album "The Great Milenko" is banned
by stores nationwide because of unacceptable content in the lyrics.
Prodigy's song "Smack My Bitch Up" is banned by Wal-Mart
and K-Mart stores after selling the "Fat of the Land"
album for nine months, when the National Organization for Women
object to the anti-feminist lyrics.
Banned Lyrics - 2000s
The New York Fraternal Order of Police ban Bruce Springsteen from
New York performances for the lyrical content of his song "American
Skin" about the controversial shooting death by police of student,
Amadou Diallo. Producers of the Late Night with David Letterman
TV show ban singer Ani DiFranco's lyrics to her hit "Subdivision"
because of the racial conflict inherent in the song.
Sarah Jones' and DJ Vadim's song "Your Revolution", is
banned by the FCC for profanity and Portland, Oregon radio station
KBOO is fined for playing the song. Eminem's hit song, "The
Real Slim Shady" is banned by the FCC and two radio stations
are fined for playing the song. After the September 11 terrorist
attacks, Clear Channel Communications put a temporary ban on popular
hit songs including Pat Benatar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot,"
Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" and "Nowhere
to Run" by Martha & the Vandellas.
In Turkey, the punk band Deli has had the lyrics to "Ö.S.
Yeme" banned by authorities for verbal obscenities. Newstyle
Radio 98.7FM in Birmingham, UK has banned all gangsta rap and "gun-slinging"
lyrics from their airways. New York City has not only banned the
"N" word from lyrics but from the lips of every citizen
in the Big Apple.
So, you can see by the examples above that censorship is alive
and well not only in the U. S., but around the world as well.
While some of it may be merited for the public good, much of it
is reactionary, over-reaching and flies in the face of free speech