The Music Freedom Day playlist 2016

3 March 2016


To highlight censored songs and artists throughout history, Music Freedom Day presents a playlist of 60 songs – available on Spotify – that highlights the theme of the event.

This year, Music Freedom Day reaches out to the global digital community through Spotify with a powerful message defending artistic freedom of expression for musicians.

Listen to the playlist and spread the word! It only takes a few clicks to share and become part of Music Freedom Day!

The playlist contains 60 songs from artists around the world who have had their songs censored, or have themselves been banned from practicing their art. To learn more about these artists and their diverse struggles to freely express themselves see the full list of songs below.

Listen to Music Freedom Day 2016!

          1. Alanis Morissette – Ironic
            After 9/11, a list of 160 “lyrically inappropriate” songs is supposed to have been distributed to 1,200 radio stations in the US. This song is one of them. You can find the list here:
          2. The Kingsmen – Louie Louie
            This song was banned from several radio stations in the US and subjected to a 31-month investigation by the FBI. All because some teens somewhere started a rumor that the words singer Jack Ely was howling were about an explicit sexual encounter. In 1964, Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh attempted to ban the song for fear of it containing obscene messages, but after review by the FCC, the agency determined that the lyrics are indecipherable. Sources: and
          3. Didier Awadi – Ma Révolution
            Awadi is one of Africa´s most respected and outspoken artists who criticizes politicians and corruption. But he also talks openly about self-censorship and admits that there is a fine line between what is important and what is unacceptable to talk about – sex and religion. Source:
          4. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
            Radio 1s DJ Mike Read objecting to the songs saucy artwork and lyrics refused to play the track during the chart rundown. The BBC then banned the song from radio and TV. Sources: and
          5. Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2
            Banned in South Africa when it became a protest song during Apartheid. It was used as a metaphor for the difference in quality of education received by white students and black students. Sources: and
          6. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
            Fearing the reaction of southern music retailers and the affiliates of the Columbia Records/CBS-owned radio stations, Columbia Records refused to allow her to record the song that was originally inspired by a photograph and news story about lynching in the South. After some negotiating, an arrangement was worked out between Columbia Records and the independent label; Commodore Records. The song was also banned from several radio stations in the US. Sources: and
          7. Deeyah – Pashto Lullaby
            Deeyah stopped her career as a singer having been attacked and received threats on her. Source:
          8. Michael Jackson – They Don’t Care About Us
            Following protests considering the song “anti-semitic,” Jackson changed the lyrics. Source:
          9. Femi Kuti – Beng Beng Beng
            The outspoken and direct lyrics of this song caused turmoil in Femi Kuti’s home country, Nigeria. The government controlled National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, banned the title track from airplay claiming that its lyrics are offensive and capable of corrupting youth innocence. Source:
          10. The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
            Considered “blasphemic” this song from their album, Pet Sounds, was forbidden in some parts of the US. Even without any negative connotation, it was considered unacceptable by many religious groups during the 60’s to use the word “God” in a non religious song. Source:
          11. The Byrds – Eight Miles High
            This song, considered to encourage drug use, was banned from radio play on several radio stations in the US. Source:
          12. Pussy Riot – Keep on Rocking In the Free World
            Imprisoned for protesting against Vladimir Putin, Pussy Riot can not perform on regular stages in Russia neither would state controlled media play this sing. Source:
          13. The Who – My Generation
            The BBC banned the song from the airwaves. This might have been due to Roger Daltrey’s stuttering of some lines, but it could also have been because the content of the stuttering “Why don’t you all fff… fade away” and therefore could have referred to another similar f- word. Source: and
          14. Thomas Mapfumo – Ndanzwa Ngoma Kurira
            Mapfuma went into exile having been harassed and marginalized in Zimbabwe. Source:
          15. Amy Winehouse – Rehab
            Winehouse was banned twice from performing in the US. Source:
          16. The Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
            Two songs from the 1967 Sgt.Pepper album were banned from BBC airwaves: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life” as they were thought to encourage drug use. Sources: and
          17. Mahsa Vahdat & Mighty Sam McClain – Silent song
            Women are not allowed to perform solo in Iran. Mahsa Vahdat has established a career outside Iran, but is never played in Iran. Source:
          18. Marcel Khalife – Oh My Father, I Am Yusif
            Khalife was accused of blasphemy and under heavy attack in Lebanon because the lyrics of this song included a verse from the Qur’an. A court decided later that the use in this particular song could not be considered “blasphemy”. Source:
          19. Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe
            Named as lyrically inappropriate by several radio US stations after 9/11. Source:
          20. Nena – 99 Luftballons
            Named as lyrically inappropriate after 9/11 in the US. Source:
          21. Roger Lucy – Storms and Fires
            Roger Lucy’s music was banned during Apartheid in South Africa and a security police engaged in covert activity to silence him and his music. Source:
          22. Dire Straits – Money For Nothing
            In 2011, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council deemed this song unsuitable for airplay. The reason was frontman Mark Knopfler’s use of a gay slur in the second verse. Sources: and
          23. Kartellen – Mina Områden
            This Swedish band criticized for glorifying a life of crime and violence has had several concerts in Sweden cancelled. Another song called “Svarta duvor och Vissna liljor” recorded by Kartellen together with Swedish artist Timbuktu may only be played in Public Radio when followed by a comment which put the lyrics into perspective. Source:
          24. Tiken Jah Fakoly – L’Africain
            Fakolys song Quitte Le Pouvoir has become an African anthem against political corruption. In 2003 he was forced into exile in Mali after a song which sampled speeches of a general who took over power. The song reminded people of all promises that were never kept. Source:
          25. Tracy Chapman – Freedom Now
            Two songs – “Freedom Now” and “Material World”, were considered undesirable by the censorship committee of South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Source:
          26. Janis Joplin – Me and Bobby McGee
            This was a mega hit for Joplin. But she also provoked and was fined US $200 for violating local profanity and obscenity laws for her performance after a concert in Tampa, Florida. Source:
          27. Junoon – Open Your Eyes
            The band got into trouble when its members protested against the nuclear bomb tests of Pakistan and India. The band was denied the right to perform for a long period in Pakistan. Source:
          28. Chiwoniso Maraire – Zvichapera
            Originally a strong supporter of President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms in Zimbabwe, Chiwoniso Maraire started openly criticizing the lack of competence, the increasing corruption and lack of free speech. After experiencing interrogations by the police, she decided to leave Zimbabwe in 2007. Source:
          29. The Au Pairs – Armagh
            Distributors in Northern Ireland refused to handle the album because of this song adressing the poor treatment of women in prisons in Northern Ireland. Read more: Banned! Censorship of Popular Music in Britain: 1967-92, by Martin Cloonan and The Lost Women Of Rock: Female Musicians Of The Punk Era, by Helen Reddington.
          30. M.I.A – Paper Planes
            Censored by MTV due to gunshots in the rythm. Source:
          31. Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
            Named as lyrically inappropriate after 9/11 in the US. Source:
          32. Rim Banna – Sarah
            Palestinian singer who was not allowed to enter Egypt for concert. Source:
          33. Bob Marley – Buffalo Soldier
            This song was advised not to be played by broadcasters in the UK during the Gulf War. Read more: Banned! Censorship of Popular Music in Britain: 1967-92, by Martin Cloonan and
          34. Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Radio, Radio
            In 1977, they where going to perform on ‘Saturday Night Live’. Costello wanted to play this song but was not allowed, since it “presented anti-media feelings”. Sources: and
          35. Ferhat Tunç – Ma Ci Di
            He is a spokesperson for Kurdish rights and his songs are censored by the National Turkish Radio and Television. The state runs several cases against him. Source:
          36. Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction
            The song was banned by many US radio stations – many of them in the South – because programmers disagreed with its ‘ugly view of humanity’. Source: The song was also listed as lyrically inappropriate after 9/11 in the US. Source:
          37. Matisyahu – One Day
            He was banned from playing at festival in Spain after he refused to make a statement outlining his position on Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Source:
          38. The Police – Invisible Sun
            The song was banned by the BBC in 1981 because of its ’overtly political, Northern Ireland-inspired lyrics’. Source:
          39. Rodríguez – Sugar Man
            Rodríquez gained huge popularity amongst white middle class youngsters in South Africa during Apartheid. His music was banned on national radio for lyrics dealing with sex and drugs. Source:
          40. Fela Kuti – Zombie
            By the mid 1970’s, Fela Kuti began to critisize the Nigerian government and the general social decay. His music club was attacked by police and the regime made several attempts to silence him. Source:
          41. Rosemary Clooney – Mambo Italiano
            The ABC network banned the song saying it did not meet the network’s “standards for good taste”. Source:
          42. Victor Jara – Manifiesto
            Considered a strong spokesperson for the Chilean left wing Jara was arrested shortly after a US supported military coup led by general Augusto Pinochet in 1973. Jara was taken to a soccer stadium in Santiago where he was tortured and killed. Source:
          43. Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al
            The UN Special Committee Against Apartheid announced that anyone buying the album “Graceland” was violating the embargo on South Africa. Simon wished to promote the great black music tradition of South Africa and broke the cultural boycott, which not only affected the regime but even black artists preventing them access to the global market. In Popular Music Censorship in South Africa, ed: Michael Drewett and Martin Cloonan.
          44. Tom Robinson Band – Glad To Be Gay
            Originally written for a London pride parade, the song entered BBCs Top 40, but was banned from the airwaves. This did not prevent the song from becoming a gay anthem. Source:
          45. Aziza Brahim (with Gulili Mankoo) – Regreso
            The authorities in Morocco censor her music because her songs are addressing the cause of the Sahrawi people in West Sahara who have been tortured, killed, or reported missing during the conflict that has driven hundreds of thousands Sahrawis into neighbouring Algeria. Source:
          46. Techung (with Dalai Lama, Lopez, Tyabji, Rodríguez and Mitchell) – Exile
            Forced into exile from Tibet because of his music. Source:
          47. Lapiro De Mbanga – Over Done
            “The sheriff of the backyards” was addressing power abuse in Cameroon. He was imprisoned because of a song “Constitution Constipée” critisizing the President. Lapiro spent three years in prison and was later forced into exile due to threats. He died in 2014. Source:
          48. Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone
            In 1968, a radio station in El Paso, Texas, banned all his records since the lyrics were ‘difficult to understand. Source:
          49. The Bangles – Walk Like an Egyptian
            Named as lyrically inappropriate after 9/11 in the US. Source:
          50. Dixie Chicks – Not Ready to Make Nice
            This top selling band received death threats and where banned by hundreds of radio stations following a critical remark on President Bush (and the war on Iraq) at a concert in London in 2003. The band was silenced but returned triumphantly in 2006 with this song. Source:
          51. Lucrecia – La noche de la iguana
            She left Cuba for Spain and is not allowed to return to the country. The reason? This song “La noche de la iguana” (The Night Of The Iguana) – a freedom anthem from the album ‘Censuré à Cuba’. Source:
          52. Haroon Bacha – Zama Zra Kawi Ghla Ganay
            Because of his messages of pluralism and peace, Bacha became a prime target of religious extremists in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. In 2008, he was forced into exile due to threats on his life. Source:
          53. Ramy Essam – Taty Taty
            Ramy Essam performed Irhal – the anthem of the Egyptian revolution, in front of hundreds of thousands of people at Tahrir Square in Egypt in 2011. He was severely tortured by the police but continued to address corruption and social injustice. His performances were banned. In 2015 he decided to leave Egypt and is currently hosted as visiting artist by Malmö city Council, Sweden. Source:
          54. Cher – If I Could Turn Back Time
            Following complaints about the video of the song, several video channels dropped or restricted the music clip. Source:
          55. Madonna – Justify My Love
            MTV banned the music video because it contained scenes of sadomasochism, homosexuality, cross-dressing, and group sex. Source: and
          56. Bobby Rush (with BlindDog Smokin’, Dr. John) – Another Murder in New Orleans
            State park officials in Kentucky un-invited blues singer Bobby Rush, because they feared his act was too sexually suggestive. Source:
          57. Kamilya Jubran (with Werner Hasler) – Al-Shaatte’ Al-Akhar
            Lead singer of Palestinian music group Sabreen representing the voice of resistance and struggle for freedom, Jubran went and created a new style of a modern Arabic song. As any other Palestinian artist carrying an Israeli passport, she is limited in her freedom of movement and in the distribution of her music. Source:
          58. Sheryl Crow – Love Is A Good Thing
            The album was banned in Wal-Mart stores because of this song, which mentions children killing each other “with a gun they bought at the Wal-Mart discount stores”. Source:
          59. Eagles Of Death Metal – Kiss the Devil
            Their concert at the Bataclan club in Paris in 2015 was attacked, leaving 89 people killed. Source:
          60. Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
            Named as lyrically inappropriate after 9/11 in the US. Source:


Home / Defending Artistic Freedom / The Music Freedom Day playlist 2016