A Brief History of Banned Music


I was listening to the radio the other day while some yahoo went off the deep end about the supposedly satanic messages in Harry Potter books. (The writer would like to state no opinion on the positive or detrimental value such satanic messages would have on the youth of the world. She would, however, like to argue that anyone who thinks the books promote such worship has the intellectual capacity of a Golden Snitch.) I wonder what would happen if protesters of this ilk exerted as much effort reading or listening to their sample texts as they do making obviously ignorant statements about the content to be found therein. Seeing the leaps of progress censorship has recently achieved in this country, without rational argument, the notion that censors might actually research their way into a logical position is a truly frightening prospect.

Censorship is a sticky issue, especially since the constitution only protects people from government sanctions against free speech. Corporations, private institutions and individual people can do whatever the hell they want. But as this country flounders through history, situations crop up that skirt the gray area, and Eric Nuzzum chronicles them all.

The site, based on Nuzzum's book Parental Advisory, includes recommended reading lists, a discussion group, and updates on music censorship that have occurred since the book's publication. It's all pretty thought-provoking, but the timeline, searchable by decade, is my favorite part. Detractors of Eminem and Marilyn Manson would be shocked to see what their "50s counterparts thought wouldn't pass muster. Apparently Cole Porter's lyrics were too hot to handle. And gems like the following are not to be missed: "1964: Fearing it contains obscene messages, Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh attempts to ban the Kingsmen hit 'Louie, Louie.' After review by the FCC, the agency determines that the song's lyrics are indecipherable."

—Diana Peterfreund

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