I was recently in a classroom where the professor asked, “What was the first piece of recorded music you owned?” I was among those with innocent answers (Now That’s What I Call Music 5, featuring soulful ballads such as “Lucky” by Britney Spears and “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” by the Backstreet Boys), but many — including my professor — spoke of rebellion, widening their tiny eyes when they finally understood those Prince lyrics, or sneaking into their closets to listen to Eminem, or jamming out to Outkast while covering the suggestive album cover with their sticker collection.
So this week, we delve into The Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties in America (2005) to learn about music censorship (which you can read more about here if you are part of a subscribing institution!). Now usually I write some facts and elaborate on them, but there were too many little snippets of facts that I wanted to share with all of you…and you’re still recovering from starting school again, right?
7. In the 1920s, saxophone music was considered obscene, and saxophones were called “the devil’s flute.”
6. Cole Porter and Billie Holiday were considered obscene in the 1940s.
5. A deejay in Portland, Oregon was fired for playing Elvis Presley’s rendition of “White Christmas,” because the arrangement was considered to be in “poor taste.”
4. Four students at a private school were suspended for listening to the Backstreet Boys.
3. Bob Dylan was banned in El Paso, Texas because his lyrics were difficult to understand, so they “might” have been obscene.
2. In 1958 several Middle Eastern nations banned rock-and-roll because a doctor said that teenagers were injuring their hips from the “extreme gyrations.”
1. In 1956 the White Citizens Council of Birmingham, Alabama, banned rock-and-roll music, believing it had been created by the NAACP.