Music Censorship in the USAThe US has a history of music censorship, though far less severe than in other parts of the world. But it's getting harder to control content of music and who buys it.
By: Jesus Valdez, Sibley Scribe
Nowadays most people don’t think of music censorship much. Much of the music we listen to has lyrics that were once considered harsh or offensive (and may still be), but most people don’t stop and think: “was there ever a time this was considered ‘wrong’?” Well there definitely was. Not too long ago there was album burning from even the slightest slip-ups, artists being banned from countries for the smallest bit of sexual suggestion, and arrests (in parts of Africa, in Afghanistan) for simply listening to and or writing music.
Music censorship has been debated since the beginning of recording history and in some places is still as harsh and punitive as it used to be. In the 1960s, under Mao Zedong’s rule, practically ALL Western music was banned from China; even a lot of their own music was banned claiming it was “a threat to their government.” Although in the US, music is often censored for radio play, it is very minor compared with much of the world. Many artists have words bleeped out or content slightly changed for radio play – Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Nine Inch Nails, Rihanna, Kanye West, Rage Against The Machine, Lady Gaga, and Marilyn Manson, to name a few. But in other countries, such artists are banned outright.
Although there has always been censorship in the US, it used to be much more severe than it is now. Even a few decades ago, people would protest radio stations for playing rock and roll music. Elvis Presley and Billie Holiday were banned from some stations. Beatles albums were burned. In the late 1960s, Bob Dylan’s music was banned by some radio stations as being “too difficult to understand” and for having many potentially “lewd” lyrics.
In the 1980s, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was set up to monitor music lyrics kind of like the MPAA monitors and gives ratings to movies. There are many instances of censorship attempts in the 1980s. Heavy metal artists Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest were sued because it was thought that their lyrics incited suicide, murder and / or assault. An example of censorship of sexually suggestive and lewd lyrics is the infamous 2 Live Crew case. Their songs were titled crudely and the lyrics were considered inappropriate, raunchy and pornographic. The lyrics were so offensive that a store clerk was sued for selling the album to a 14-year-old girl in Florida in 1987. Other prosecutions of record-store owners for selling 2 Live Crew albums took place in Florida, Tennessee and Alabama. Compare that to today, how many young people do you see listening to rap with “offensive” language?
Even today rock, rap, hip-hop, and more music genre artists are harassed by religious leaders and believers, claiming their music is “blasphemous” and “brain washing.” But in the US at least, it seems very difficult to censor music purchases given how much of it occurs online now. The toning down of music censorship has allowed artists to truly express a point in a song, without worrying if it will be deemed “appropriate” or “inappropriate.”