USA: Panel debate on censorship of music lyrics



Censorship of music lyrics in light of USA’s First Amendment

In October 2005, a panel discussion at Ball State University entitled ‘Exploring Freedom of Expression Through Music’ looked at the issue of American censorship of controversial lyrics in popular music throught the prism of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the United States Bill of Rights which prevents the U.S. Congress from infringing on the freedom of speech, and the freedom of the press.

The Ball State University had organised a ‘Freedom of Speech Week’ and the panel focusing on music highlighted examples of how music in America has been censored because of its messages. As examples was mentioned:

• In 2003, radio stations in San Antonio, Texas, pulled the song “Red Ragtop” by Tim McGraw because it implied abortion.
• Singer John Kay’s drug-related song “The Pusher” sparked controversy in South Carolina because it included a swear word against God. When he met a local police chief and mayor at the airport on the way to his concert, they forbade him to sing the controversial song.
• After September 11 in 2001, Wal-Mart stopped selling songs it thought were non-patriotic. Clear Channel media company also issued a list of songs they considered offensive, such as AC/DC’s “Safe in New York.”
• The response by media after the September 11 attacks mirrored the government’s push in 1970 during the Vietnam War to remove songs with drug connotations.

“Four out of 10 Americans feel that music should be censored,” a First Amendment scholar and Ball State University alumnus said during the panel discussion.

Read more about the panel debate:

DN Online, 21 October, 2005  
‘Panel focuses on censorship of music lyrics’

Counter Think / NewsTarget Network:

‘Censorship of popular music under discussion at Ball State’

Examples of American music censorship cases

Eric Nuzum: Parental Advisory – Music Censorship In America
Censorship Incidents – arranged by timeline

Go to top
Related reading