Music Censorship

Music censorship: the allowance of controversial lyrics gliding effortlessly through songs will forever remain in a heated debate alongside the inalienable right--freedom of expression.

"Rock music is sex. The big beat matches the body's rhythms," quipped rock star Frank Zappa, although he was quite serious. When screaming guitar licks, thrashing drums, and rhythmic, seductive bass lines are joined by angry, controversial lyrics, only trouble can result. In today's society, music makes its presence known in a big way.

Rock music is a common target of censors, especially because of its allusions to sex, drugs, and booze, not to mention its indecipherable lyrics. Rock and roll has largely been seen as a form of rebellious music for just about as long as it has existed. Because of the implications and hidden meanings associated with rock, some old-fashioned beliefs continue to cause a discrepancy amongst the population of the time.

Would a fun, carefree song such as Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl possibly have some element in it that would cause a stir among censorship authorities? Yes, in fact, the song was banned until a more acceptable version was produced. The original presented the issues of premarital sex and teen pregnancy almost as if they were natural, socially tolerable events. This caused an uproar that only became more violent and common over time. This is only one of the many instances of music censorship in the past few decades.

A hardcore advocate of freedom of expression and anti-censorship is Rock Out Censorship. ROC is an organization that strives to attain lyrical liberty for all artists, and to combat the censors who already have some musicians in their clutches. This group works hard to stand up for what they believe in, and that is non-censorship.

In their quest to secure the First Amendment rights, ROC teams up with many other music rights organizations. One in particular is the ACLU-American Civil Liberties Union, and this organization addressed issues as ridiculous as playing the Hokey Pokey at a roller skating rink. What happened in this case was the confiscation of a number of compact discs from the rink's DJ. They were taken because of a fight that had broken out after the rink had closed. The seizure took place because there was suspicion that the rap music played that night sparked the fight. Events similar to this give good solid evidence to the critics and censors. There will always be something controversial, keeping the different types of music in check. Other issues that the ACLU is forced to deal with range as far as labeling of compact disks as containing "explicit lyrics," as well as influence on people, especially teenagers, to commit acts (primarily suicide) that the music describes through its lyrics. "No direct link between anti-social behavior and exposure to the content of any form of artistic expression has ever been scientifically established," says the ACLU. "Moreover, scapegoating artistic expression as a cause of social ills is simplistic. How can serious social problems like violent crime, racism or suicide be solved by covering children's ears?"

"We favor music censorship? No, that's not true," says Wendy Wright, one of the members of the Concerned Women for America. "Censorship means that the government restrains speech. We are in favor of those in the music industry using common sense, in essence, that they don't promote behavior (violent, sexually harmful, etc.) or activities that they wouldn't want committed against their wife or children." The Concerned Women of America is an organization on the enemy list of ROC, and virtually all other anti-censorship supporters. C.W.F.A. believes that music does have a huge impact on children of all ages. "The argument that it does not affect kids, that it does not promote similar behavior, is ridiculous. If that were true, they would not advertise or rely on marketing - both fields depend on the fact that humans can be enticed into doing something that they wouldn't have thought up on their own."

Another organization somewhat in favor of censorship is a "Bible believing Christian publishing ministry." Kristina Chapman, the Customer Service Representative of Chick Publications, says "We want to present information regarding certain kinds of music and its effects on people so that they can make an informed decision of what they want to listen to. If they choose to listen to something we regard as harmful, or at least not beneficial in any shape or form, they are free to do so." Judging by both seemingly pro-censorship organizations, the views and beliefs are still relatively objective, and neither is overzealous in efforts made to restrict the guaranteed freedom of expression. These organizations merely strive to get their point across and their beliefs out to as many people as possible.

The question of music censorship has been going on for a great stretch of time, and it seems as if it will continue to endure for years and years to come. Not only is it a matter of legality and constitutionality, but censorship is also a matter of morality and personal preference. Each person will choose a position based on his or her own beliefs on the topic, and whom the audience of the music in question is going to be. There will generally always be something controversial interwoven throughout the lyrics, guitar riffs, and drumbeats on the music scene. One simply needs to know what is more important, the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and due process or preserving morality.

The organizations both in favor and against censorship will continue to wage wars with each other quite possibly forever. Both sides have this right to defend their views and will be at odds unless a common ground is found. "The groups and individuals who have been attacking popular music want to impose their personal moral and political standards on the rest of us," says a member of the ACLU. "The American Civil Liberties Union is working hard to prevent the achievement of that goal, which would imperil the First Amendment rights of musicians, and of all Americans, to create, perform and hear music of our own choosing."

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