Discuss the issues surrounding the attempts to control the content of popular music

Essay by Point5College, Undergraduate August 2004

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Censorship is the control of what people may say or hear, write or read, or see or do. Censorship can affect books, newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, radio and television programs, and speeches. Most of the early problems with the censorship of music came about in the early 1950's. This was the first real era of rock and roll in America. In 1954 a Michigan Congresswoman (Ruth Thompson) tried to pass a bill that stated that the mailing of any explicit or pornographic album could lead to robust jail time, up to five years if convicted.(1) When looking back, the 50's had some of the most laughable incidences when songs were banned. There was a Billie Holiday song by the name of "Love for Sale," none of the radio stations were allowed to play it because of its strong sexual content and its depiction of prostitution. In even a funnier case there was a song by the name of "Transfusion" banned because it was felt that a blood transfusion was not a laughing matter.

Perhaps the most farcical form of censorship in the 50's came about in 1957 when Elvis Presley was scheduled to perform on the Ed Sullivan show. Cameramen were instructed not to film any of Elvis's lower body because his dancing was considered inappropriate for the viewing audience.(2)

It becomes clear that a singer/song writer can write a song about anything and make the song a hit i.e. One of Americas national treasures Happy Days 1974-1984 opened up with Bill Haley and the Comets 1954 hit record 'Rock around the clock', (3) disguised as a metaphor the song implies that they are going to dance for 24 hours of the day however the songs true meaning is they are going to engage in sexual activity for 24 hours...