This week libraries and book stores throughout the country are celebrating Banned Books Week. This annual celebration focuses on the importance of open access to written communications and first amendment rights. This year’s theme is comic books and graphic novels. NPR produced an excellent story to celebrate some notable works in these genres that have received censor and/or been banned from libraries or book stores.
While we cannot necessarily highlight many music-related graphic novels or comic books that have fallen under censor, we would like to discuss some notorious cases of censorship and banning of popular 20th-century music.
Elvis Presley’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (1954)
Shortly after its release, the Juvenile Delinquency Commission of Houston, Texas placed “Good Rockin’ Tonight” on a list of objectionable records that banned it from being played on many radio stations, or sold in record stores.
Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) Rap/Metal Hearings (1984 – 1985)
In 1985 PMRC formed as a means to increase parental control of access to music deemed to contain overt references to sex, drugs or violence via a rating system and set limitationd on the availability (e.g., store sales) of these albums to children. The PMRC also published a list of fifteen songs that they found most objectionable, including Prince’s “Darling Nikki”, Madonna’s “Dress You Up” and Black Sabbath’s “Trashed.”
Dixie Chicks Anti-Government Sentiments @ a Public Performance (2003)
During a London performance, singer Natalie Maines openly spoke against the U.S. entering the war in Iraq. She also spoke her displeasure with President Bush. As a result of the group’s use of their first amendment rights, sparked intense criticism of the group and its music. Many fans boycotted their music; in a single week their single, “Landslide” went from No. 10 to No. 43 on the Billboard chart.
The UCLA Music Library recognizes the importance free expression in music, a creative art form. We proudly show our support of open access to published materials.
To read more about these cases see: Free Speech and Music