Thursday, June 29, 2017

Censorship of Rock Lyrics [A #TBT Post]

[Note: Originally written for an argumentative, yet balanced, essay assignment in high school English class (April1990), highlighting my unintentional beginnings as an opinion columnist later in life. All grammatical and typographical errors have been left intact as originally written and formatted.]

    Satanism, suicide and sex are all supposedly linked to one thing – heavy-metal rock. Groups like Judas Priest, Metallica, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, KISS and Motley Crue have heard it before:  their music promotes devil worship and disregard for human life. Should these groups be censored before they turn youths into social freaks? Will censoring groups such as these stop their uncontrollable, rebel followers? Censorship of music lyrics may help control what teenagers listen to, but teens will still find ways to possess the albums. It would therefore be a waste to censor music lyrics.
    The heavy-metal band Motley Crue has as its emblem the pentagram, an inverted five-pointed star often associated with Satan. Members of Judas Priest clothe themselves in black leather and chains. Dio, another metal group, depicts on the album of “Holy Diver” a drowning minister that is powerless against a horned, cloven-hoofed devil. Small wonder that ministers, parents’ groups and law-enforcement agencies have reacted so strongly toward heavy metal. Critics blame big name entertainers for exploiting Satanism through visual images and lyrics aimed at teenage devotees. Dr. Paul King, a Tennessee psychiatrist, raises this question:  “Does AC/DC stand for Anti-Christ/Devil’s Child?”
    Defenders counter that most heavy-metal bands have nothing to do with Satanism. For those that do, they say, the devil is nothing more than a marketing tool.  “Your average 15-year old is not going to sacrifice a goat . . . just because he listened to ‘Hell Awaits’,” says Mike Jones, director of heavy metal productions at Combat Records. Offstage, many metal rockers have families and children. Not one says they worship Satan, but the reputation is still there. An unidentified preacher in the South came up with the idea that KISS stands for “Knights In Satan’s Service.”
    “I couldn’t be that creative,” says Gene Simmons, leader of KISS, “if I tried.”
    What of rock’s ability to do good though?  MTV has made a drive against drugs, known as RAD, or Rock Against Drugs. Often times these same rockers are accused of Satanism and the suicide of teens when they sing of drugs and alcohol. British rocker Ozzy Osbourne was sued by Jack McCollum and Geraldine Lugenguehl for the suicide of their son. They blamed it on one of Osbourne’s songs, “Suicide Solution,” after John D. McCollum, 19, listened to it and killed himself. Osbourne contends that the song is about alcohol and how uncontrollable use of it becomes exactly that – a suicide solution.
    “It is about living, not dying. People who really listen know this; the others, well I can not do anything about them. I’m not going to stop making music because they won’t listen.” He goes on to say that “ . . . it’s a bigger tragedy no one recognized his real problems went far deeper than music.”
    What are the usual problems that drive kids to suicide? Most come from broken homes, use drugs and alcohol and have a higher rate of sexual activity. Where is the parental involvement for these kids? The teenagers, usually 14-18, are drug abusers or alcoholics and feel there is no one to help them out of their situation. The parents should be there for these kids, rather than turning their backs on them. Due to impaired judgment from drugs or alcohol and the misinterpretation of music lyrics, the teens think low of themselves, think they are nothing and believe suicide to be the only solution. This is exactly Osbourne’s contention that his song is about alcoholism and drug abuse, and the downward spiral that can come from it without help.
    Still, others contend that lyrics and visual messages propel kids toward anarchy, immorality and self-destruction. They say the music did not make them into killers, but in their insane, drug-crazed mind frame they identified strongly with the lyrics. Defenders again counter that an obsession with heavy-metal’s anti-establishment values and self-destructive tendencies is an indicator of even more serious psychological problems beyond music lyrics.
    The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech. The lawsuit against Osbourne by John McCollum’s parents was thrown out on those very grounds. The Reverend Dan Kimball of Santa Rosa contends that resolving bad relationships and poor lines of communications – not silencing the music – is the answer to stopping kids from straying into Satanism or exploding into violence.
    “Government censorships is not the answer,” he says. “Adults should ‘hear the hurts’ in heavy-metal music.”
    What should be done to satisfy all? Is the music to be locked up, rock posters taken off walls and inspiration taken away? No heavy-metal t-shirts, no concerts? Or should real solutions be found for the troubled teens, giving them direction in their early lives? If the music, t-shirts and concerts were taken away and censored, teens would rebel even more because their favorite thing – music – has been taken from them. How is freedom of speech to be reconciled with censorship? Are rockers to be told to not make music that could have an unintentional influence on teenagers to use drugs, have sex or commit suicide? Perhaps warning labels on all albums would help caring parents make a choice. That way, teens could still listen to their music and government could have some control, without the all-out censorship of musicians and their craft. Censorship of an extreme nature would only add to the rebellion and not cure the sociopathic adolescents. After all, if one thing gets censored, where will it end?

©2017 Steve Sagarra