Bleep! Censoring Rock and Rap Music

By Betty Houchin Winfield; Sandra Davidson | Go to book overview

Presley, Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones, to cite a few of the most obvious, would be unthinkable without the examples of African-American musicians.

As the twentieth century reaches its end, the circumstances surrounding rock and roll are more complicated than ever and as controversial as ever. The tradition appears more fragmented than before because of the preservation of historical styles alongside interest in newer ones and because of the participation of various constituencies of performers and listeners representing various ages and life-styles. There is one aspect of the tradition, however, that remains unchanged: the music created by young Americans for young Americans continues to alarm, shock, and challenge the social code; its opponents are just as prepared as ever to voice their own outrage, to wage their holy war, and to fight for censorship.


NOTES
1
Pablo Casals, "A Disgrace to Music", Music Journal XIX:1 ( Jan. 1961), 18. The Spanish-born Casals ( 1876- 1973) enjoyed an international career as a violoncello virtuoso and conductor and was revered as one of the finest musicians of his time. His harsh assessment of rock and roll must be understood as the perception of one whose life was devoted to European fine-art music.
2
Linda Martin & Kerry Segrave, Anti-Rock: The Opposition to Rock 'n' Roll (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1988; reprinted New York: Da Capo Press, 1993), vii. Although some commentators are willing to attribute the sordid lifestyles of various rock musicians as well as the deaths of several others to the music itself, it seems clear that many other factors must be considered.
3
The most comprehensive and systematic study of this phenomenon is probably Martin & Segrave Anti-Rock: The Opposition to Rock 'n' Roll, as cited above. Another significant study addressing this issue in British society is Martin Cloonan, Banned! Censorship of Popular Music in Britain, 1967-1992 ( Aldershot, Hamphshire: Arena, 1996); see especially Chapter 2, "Censorship: Some Characteristics of the Debate".
4
"Elitist" is used here to designate an attitude of perceived superiority or privilege.
5
"Yeh-Heh-Heh-Hes, Baby", Time LXVII:25 ( 18 June 1956), 54.
6
See the editorials "Control the Dim-Wits", Billboard LXVI ( 25 Sept. 1954); and Abel [Green], "A Warning to the Music Business", Variety CXCVII: 12 ( 23 Feb. 1955), 2.
7
The grand exception appears to be songwriter/composer Cole Porter ( 1891- 1964), whose witty but suggestive lyrics earned for him the nickname "the genteel pornographer" from Cecil Smith in Musical Comedy in America ( New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1950).
8
See, for example, Ronin Ro, Gangsta: Merchandising the Rhymes of Violence ( New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996).
9
An early example is Marion Meade, "Does Rock Degrade Women?", New York Times II ( 14 March 1971), 13, 22.
10
Martha Bayles, Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty & Meaning in American Popular Music ( New York: The Free Press, 1994; reprinted Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 355.

-8-

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