Banned Songs

Banned Songs

Unless you’ve successfully insulated yourself from the media lately (at least in Canada and the U.S.) you have heard of the latest casualty of ‘social’ and or ‘political correctness’, as I write this “Baby it’s Cold Outside” is being dropped like a hot potato. I hope more rational heads will prevail but we’ll see; this may not be the last song on the list to be banned this season.

Originally from the movie “Neptune’s Daughter” written by someone who apparently should have known better; Frank Loesser who won an Academy Award in 1949 for this song (so they will need to be banned as well). As will the movie ‘Elf‘ where the song makes an appearance. It’s originally performed in the movie by the actors Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán (1949) and note in the video clip the roles are reversed with  Red Skelton and Betty Garrett. The first record release was by Don Cornell and Laura Leslie with Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra (1949). Just how it became a ‘holiday’ song I’m not too certain. Since recorded over 350 times.

Listen, I’m a husband and father of two girls (now young women) and I have always worried about them being safe. I just don’t think targeting songs like this is helping to make girls or women safer regardless of the fact that the #MeToo movement is doing a lot of good. We can’t lose sight of things like context, intention and the period of time songs were written. Banning is one way of saying this and other songs didn’t or shouldn’t exist, instead they should generate discussion and promote healthy exchanges between people (and not just men and women) and not simply ignored and erased. It’s a steep and slippery slope and without someone putting on the breaks just about anything becomes fair game, hence my not so tongue in cheek remark about banning the Academy Awards.
So, being a student of music history this banning business does not surprise me very much as there are thousands of songs that have been banned by one radio station or another, a network, city, state, country or countries over the years.  Most of these bans don’t last all that long as in most cases the reasons for banning them just don’t hold up over time and people just forget. Unless you get the ‘Fire Department’ al’a Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 on it, somebody’s going to have a copy and it’s going to get listened too!

There are (I think) some songs that truly need to be banned, those by people who have committed morally repugnant crimes ought not have a voice. On the other hand there are songs that have been subject to some restricted airplay, but can be heard not infrequently on certain radio and satellite/internet stations. One such example is a song by the famed rapper ‘Eminem’, I won’t name the song but the lyrics (as I understand) describe the protagonists plan to send ten of his ‘boys’ to take the virginity of his sister on her birthday. Seems songs like this might be a better target for banning than the above mentioned and I’m sure most would agree. There is a tendency I believe when political correctness (and Twitter) gets in the way of common sense and reason that the easy and ‘low hanging fruit’ gets picked off and the tough stuff gets ignored. I will focus on “Rap” music a bit as there is no shortage of songs with misogynistic, violent and racists lyrics that receive regular airplay. Everyone has their limits I suppose, profanity as an example in of itself is no cause to ban a song if it serves a purpose in conveying a message, but clearly inciting violence and hatred is not something we should be supporting.

When it comes to ‘bans’ and I’ve touched on this a bit in previous blog posts, with the exception of “Rap” no genre gets very much of a free pass. Here are some songs you may be surprised to find that they have been banned by someone for one reason or another.

Wake Up Little Susie” written by the husband and wife duo of Boudleaux Bryant and Felice Bryant. Recorded by the Everly Brothers (1957). This song was deemed inappropriate because two young lovers although quite ‘innocently’ fell asleep while watching a movie didn’t wake up until 4 a.m.; spending the night together was quite taboo in 1957.
Behind Closed Doors” written by Kenny O’Dell, it was a hit song for Charlie Rich in 1973. With lyrics like “She’s never far away, Or too tired to say, I want you” and the whole idea I guess of “closed doors” was too much for some Country Music Stations. Nevertheless covered over 45 times, including Diana Ross (1973) and Loretta Lynn (1974).

Bring the Boys Home” recorded by Freda Payne (1971) written by Angelo Bond, General Johnson (Norman Earl Johnson and far as I know not an actual “General”) and Greg Perry. The Vietnam protest song was banned from American Forces Radio for fear it would “give aid and comfort to the enemy”. Covered only once that I can find by Jann Arden (2007).
“Deep in the Heart of Texas” music written by Don Swander, Lyrics by June Hershey. While there are several versions of this song the most egregious rendition banned by the BBC in the 1940’s was this one from Ted Weems and His Orchestra with Perry Como (1941). Deemed too ‘catchy’ officials were worried it would distract the factory workers.
One of my favorites in this category is “Louie Louie” written by Richard Berry and recorded by Richard Berry and The Pharaohs (1957). The offending version was by The Kingsman (1963). Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh declared the song “Pornographic” in 1964 which apparently led to an FBI and FCC investigation as well as several radio stations not playing the song. Turns out that the  semi-unintelligible lyrics in this version prompted a college student to make up his own lewd ones and distribute them to his friends. All this attention created a desire among musicians to re-record the song and people to listen to it, with dozens more versions in the sixties and whole dedicated compilation albums, we’re at over 150 versions and counting.

And men don’t have a lock on sexually suggestive songs, Olivia Newton John then billed just as ‘Olivia’ had a smash #1 hit and video with “Physical” (1981) written by Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick. Banned in many conservative communities such as Salt Lake City in Utah.  I for one resemble some of the participants in the video so I’m hoping for a resurgence in a ban on this one.

A playlist of all the videos.


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