Lyrics and Political Correctness

In our time of political correctness adherents rewriting history by demanding names and statues be altered, can the music industry be far behind? The long history of Rock ‘n’ Roll tells countless tales of teenage angst. But some of those songs may well be inappropriate by today’s standards. Please bear in mind that while writing this I have tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Let’s start with a few classics. Sweet Little Sixteen was released by Chuck Berry in 1958. Chuck was born in 1926, making him thirty-two when he sang of the girl with the ‘grown up blues’. Perhaps worse, John Lennon released his version in 1975 when he was thirty-five. Clearly these songs should now be banned as the were sung by significantly older men about a teenage girl.

Elvis, at the ripe old age of twenty-six also seemed to display an interest in young girls with his 1961 Little Sister. The King, while evidently working his way through the family, begs the little sister “don’t you do what your big sister done“.

In 1962 heart-throb Steve Lawrence released Go Away Little Girl. At the time Lawrence was 27. He even admits in the lyrics that something is a bit awry in his interest; Go away little girl
I’m not supposed to be alone with you
. Is this possibly a reference to the lyricist, not Lawrence, being on a sex offenders list? God bless her soul, I bet Eydie Gorme had no idea.

In 1972 Irish singer Gilbert O’Sullivan had a huge hit with his song Clair. During the song he teases about a possibly inappropriate relation between himself, and Clair, a child. But why in spite of our age difference do I cry, Each time I leave you I feel I could die, Nothing means more to me than hearing you say, “I’m going to marry you. Will you marry me? Oh hurray!” Sounds pretty creepy at this point. But then we learn at the very end of the song that Clair is in fact a baby, and the singer merely expressing his love for his child. I know they say songs need to have a hook, but I’ve never been sure about this one.

And it’s not just a matter of age appropriateness, how would Correcters feel about Jim Stafford’s 1974 hit My Girl Bill (lack of a comma being paramount). Stafford plays on the homophobic element by singing about what seems to be two men in a romantic relationship. I said, Who we love and why we love, It’s hard to understand, Let’s just sit here on the couch, And face this, man to man. Of course in the end we learn that it is indeed two men, but rather than being a couple, they are in love with the same woman. The singer firmly states to his pal William, that he has no intention of giving her up – She’s my girl, Bill. What a difference a comma makes.

Speaking of commas, how is it that the Rolling Stones’ 1966 hit Paint It, Black has not received more complaints regarding the placement of the comma. As it appears, it is more of a command than a statement of paint colour preference. Paint It Black and Paint It, Black are two different things entirely.

1 thought on “Lyrics and Political Correctness

  1. Don’t forget the Beatles ‘Run For Your Life’ from Rubber Soul. A misanthropic and violent tune by Lennon. Lyrics include the line “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” BTW This particular line was lifted from an earlier Elvis Presley song, “Baby Let’s Play House”.

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