Because of the Children: Decades of Attempted Controls of Rock 'n' Rap Music
Betty Houchin Winfield
For people in the entertainment industry in this country, we applaud your creativity and your worldwide success, and we support your freedom of expression. But you do have a responsibility to assess the impact of your work and to understand the damage that comes from the incessant, repetitive mindless violence and irresponsible conduct that permeates our media all the time.
-- Bill Clinton, State of the Union Address January 24, 1995
Bill Clinton, a "boomer" of early rock 'n' roll who adopted as a campaign song the rock classic "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," points out a popular cultural censorship dilemma between free expression and social responsibility. Creativity by its very nature is different; by being new and appealing, music also can be monetarily successful. Yet, as a form of free expression, the music through its sounds and lyrics can urge deviant, suggestive, even violent behavior of those the most impressionable -- the young -- and thus impact the community. Such possible effects alarm many adults, including the president. And, to protect the children, censorship in a free society can be justified. This chapter discusses the American dilemma of free musical expression, particularly the rock and rap music of the past 45 years, and social controls and censorship.
In the larger picture of a democratic society, an ideal community without defined classes, culture would be diverse. In this model, no specific group defines the culture's music. Creativity would reign in a marketplace of music. No rules would limit the musical expression; anything would be possible. As one of the oldest forms of human expression, music freely appeals not only to any age, but also to an individual's gambit