Freedom of Speech in Music

Is It Freedom of Speech in Music? Freedom of speech and expression are two of the mainstays that make up the very fabric of this country. Music is a form of speech that gives the artist a platform to relay their message or opinion on any given topic they choose. When tragic events happen certain songs are viewed as insensitive and in return receive no radio time or video play. By banning music containing information pertaining to the tragic event, does the tragic event disappear? The First Amendment to our Constitution allows us freedom of speech and press provided we do not violate any other laws in the process.

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As we shall see, there are no laws providing for music censorship. Censorship can be attributed to time as well. In the days of Elvis Presley, a pelvic gyration was deemed immoral and obscene, so therefore it was not televised. In today’s society, that same pelvic thrust is in 95% of all music videos. As Robert Gross points out, “… this controversy is a replay of the age old generation gap, in a new and, perhaps, more striking form. Iron Maiden may strike today’s adults as alien to their culture, but the author suspects that a similar reaction occurred when adults first heard the lyrics to “Good Golly, Miss Molly” (Gross 1990).

Even more ridiculous, some attacks were racially motivated. In the 50’s, petitions were passed out saying, “Don’t allow your children to buy Negro records. ” The petitions referred to the “raw unbridled passion” of screaming people with dark skin who were going to drive our children wild. Some things never go out of fashion in certain ideological camps. They are like tenets of the faith” (Zappa 1988). Musicians are often credited for using imagery, ideas, and obscene language in their lyrics.

What some deem obscene is usually a documentation of real events and real people expressed through language suited to tell the story. “Explicit sex, violence, pain, suffering, and unusual human acts are characteristics of the human drama. Lyrical content is now censored when relating to “… explicit sex, explicit violence, or explicit substance abuse” (Baker 1989). Listeners know that lyrics can be shocking, but those same lyrics describe the harsh realities of our world and lives. Frank Zappa is a musician that had a strong influence on early rock music. He noted “… f one wants to be a real artist in the United States today and comment on our culture, one would be very far off the track if one did something delicate or sublime. This is not a noble, delicate, sublime country” (Zappa 1988). Jim Walsh’s article, “Censorship in music? My, what a wonderful idea! ” is an opinionated article that focuses primarily on those who tend to believe music is the reason for all the evils that exist in the world today. Mr. Walsh’s thesis sarcastically states he is all for censorship in music because it would make everything a lot simpler. Mr.

Walsh talks about all genres of music in his article, touching on several key social topics in his message. For instance, he states, “We should make sure that the words “cocaine,” “weed” and “pot” are bleeped out on the radio because if we do that, then no one will ever get it in their heads to do drugs” (Walsh, 2000). Another example Walsh uses, “We should protest Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots)” and Ice T-s “Cop Killer” and pretend that police brutality and intimidation toward African-Americans is a figment of black America’s imagination” (Walsh, 2000).

Controversial music is intended to reach teenagers and young adults which, ironically is the same segment of the population censorship usually tries to protect. The thinking behind censorship is, without knowledge a corresponding action will not follow. Where this thought process fails is the action is what comes first, which is then interpreted through language. As Goethe points out, “It would be a bad state of affairs if reading had a more immoral effect than life itself, which daily develops scandalous scenes in abundance, if not before our eyes than before our ears.

Even with children we need not by any means be too anxious about the effects of a book or a play. As I have said, daily life is more effective than the most effective book” (Goethe 1832). Music is a very powerful medium and in some societies there have been attempts to control its use. It is powerful at the level of the social group because it facilitates communication which goes beyond words, enables meanings to be shared, and promotes the development and maintenance of individual, group, cultural and national identities” (http://musicmagic. wordpress. com) References

Baker, Susan, and Tipper Gore. “Record Industry Misunderstands PMRC. ” Billboard Magazine Vol. 101, February 11, 1989: p. 9. Retrieved December 3, 2010 from http://www. noisebetweenstations. com/personal/essays/music_censorship. html Zappa, Frank. “On Junk Food for the Soul. ” New Perspectives Quarterly Vol. 4, Winter 1988: p. 26-30. Retrieved December 3, 2010 from http://www. noisebetweenstations. com/personal/essays/music_censorship. html “Censorship in music? My, what a wonderful idea! ” Saint Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN). 2000. Retrieved December 03, 2010 from accessmylibrary: http://www. ccessmylibrary. com/article-1G1-122119720/censorship-music-my-wonderful. html Lombardi, Victor. “Music and Censorship”. (1991, December). Retrieved December 3, 2010 from http://www. noisebetweenstations. com/personal/essays/music_censorship. html Goethe. Dialogues with Eckermann. 1832. As cited in Oboler. Retrieved December 3, 2010 from http://www. noisebetweenstations. com/personal/essays/music_censorship. html “The Power Role of Music in Society”. (2008, July 10). Retrieved December 3, 2010 from http://musicmagic. wordpress. com/2008/07/10/music-in-society/


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