Music Censorship

The History of Censorship in Music

Music censorship did not just begin in the past 20 years. In fact, people have been censoring music all throughout the twentieth century. In the earlier times, though, censors were used to block lyrics that seem hardly offensive today. The rules and regulations have changed, but the basis still remains. Whatever seems offensive at the time will be blocked from reaching people's ears. Even dating as far back as 1927.

In 1927, the United States of America's Congress enacted the The Radio Act of 1927, which was used as a way for the government to control the content that was being broadcasted. The Radio Act prohibited the use of obscene, indecent or profane language through the air. This was first used to fine a radio station in 1970, fifty-three years after the Act was passed, because of a reference to sex. Then, in 1934, congress created the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to monitor international communications through radio, television, etc. The FCC is run by five commissioners that are appointed by the government, and has been in charge of controlling music play throughout the entirety of 1934 to present day (Storr 17). Since their creation, not only have they added to the laws prohibiting music play, but they are also directly involved with censoring it themselves. The core reason music censorship is as heavily used as it is today is because of the FCC.

From then on, there have been many instances throughout the 1940's and 50's that have brought about question as to the motive of the FCC and music censorship. In 1952, a folk band by the name The Weavers were blacklisted because of their leftist political beliefs. As a result, they lost their recording contract causing their popularity to drop dramatically. In this case, the FCC used there power to ruin the popularity of a band, and change how people felt about them because of censorship. Another simple example is of Elvis Presley on "The Ed Sullivan Show". In 1957, he was forced to be filmed from the waist up, because the way he danced and moved his legs were considered inappropriate.
After the 50's, music censorship started becoming even more prominent. With artists on the rise with a more carefree attitude, and heavily involved in drugs and sex, it only seemed natural that music censorship would respond in such a way to prevent people from hearing or seeing it. In the 1960's, lyrical content became the main cause for censorship. In fact, from Ed Sullivan's insistence, The Rolling Stones changed the lyric of one song from "Let's spend the night together" to "Let's spend some time together" (Jones 76). Other extreme examples throughout the 60's included arrests and imprisonment of Jim Morrison and the Doors for indecent exposure and obscenity, and fines to Country Joe McDonald for saying "fuck" in a show.

The BBC also began heavily enforcing Censorship in the 1960's. When The Beatles began experimenting with drugs and showing it in their lyrics, the British Broadcasting Corporation was quick to react to it and banned plenty of songs. The FCC followed suit by sending warnings to all broadcasts of potentially harmful lyrics (Jones 78). The rest of the of the 60's and 70's continued the same way, with the FCC responding to "outrageous" lyrical content.

In 1985, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was formed. Mainly formed by mothers whose husbands were in the government, they did not like the
accessibility that their children had to albums with sexual content and explicit lyrics (Peterson 591). It was their push that caused a change amongst albums,
creating the "clean" and "explicit" versions that we sell today. Also, it made such an affect on companies that drove some (like Walmart) to refuse to carry 
explicit albums altogether.