Music Censorship: Then and Now

As the music industry continues to expand, it’s hard to believe that music censorship was and continues to be a dominating force to regulate it’s influence on the youth. Is censorship on music a restricting entity thrusted upon artistic expression? Find out Now!

There is no better feeling than driving down the highway on a hot summer day. As you roll down the window to embrace the wind in your hair, you reach ever-so-graciously toward the radio knob. The radio begins to caress your eardrums, as a grin shapes across your lips. Life with music feels so good! It was not long ago when music artists could not promote any naughty profanity in music projects, radios stations, or records. Music censorship was such a highly regulated nature, that even legendary rock group, “The Beach Boys” were banned from radio stations based on their enticing song, “God Only Knows” as using the lord’s name in pop music was deemed “too controversial”. For today’s music standards, how did the music industry get to the less censored radio music we hear throughout social media and mainstream media? The dynamic answer embodies a long history of repression as it fueled much of artists’ musical creativity. 


History of Censorship

Music censorship began its regression dating back to 1935 as the music legend, “Lucille Bogan ” made a social buzz with their hit song “Shave Em Dry“. As blues was deemed as the “devils’ music”, many societies exiled blues artists, banning them from performing in various venues based on their “vulgar” nature. However, this notion sparked a more poetic lyrical approach. To break into the music industry during the time of strong regression, Blues artists such as “John Lee Hooker” and “Bessie Smith” would sneak varying phrases of double entendres into their classic blues records to appease a wider range of music listeners. In later years, censorship became more rigorous. As the teenage enticing rock and roll era of the 1950s emerged, songs such as “Shake, Rattle and Roll” covered by Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, sparked negative controversy for its explicit undertones. However, music censorship relaxed a bit in the 1960s and 1970s. Songs such as “Love Child” by “The Supremes” and “Walk on The Wild Side” by “Lou Reed” conveyed a highly sexual nature, yet did not receive much hate or worry. The 1970s invited songs featuring erotic noises as crucial part of artistic expression. However, internationals songs such as “Jane Birken” and “Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Jet’aime Mon Non Plus’ was deemed too hot for American radio stations. “Jungle Fever” by the Chakachas broke this taboo a year later. Hippie classics such as “Up Against the Wall” by “David Peel” and “The Lower East Side” proclaim high drug use yet appeared in several mainstream albums. That same year, rock band legends “The Rolling Stones”, broke music censorship barriers with their song “Star Star”. With the heavy implementation of vulgar lyrics and profanity, the song came under much scrutiny from the public music listeners and radio stations. 

As the disco movement hit the radio airwaves in the mid-1970s, all bets were off in terms of music censorship. Artists and songs such as Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”, embodied intense physical music and embraced sexuality. By the 1980s, it seemed that the power behind music censorship lost its epic battle. Songs with strong language were thrusted all over FM radio. However, songs such as “Valley Girl” by Frank Zappa during the revolution of heavy metal and hip hop, set a tone or yearn for more lyrical restriction. The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was a crusade for music censorship, pushing to protect teenagers’ ears from potentially harmful messages. Yet, according to, the crusade failed as their aggressive methods and clueless choices of targets were no match for the growing teen population, eager to express themselves through non-restricted music. However, by the 1990s music censorship got more rigid and uglier. Hip hop continued to portray a negative outlook for promoting sex, drugs, and violence as censorship became an all-time high for this music genre. Censorship was becoming prominent in the mainstream indie rock scene as epic bands such as Nirvana and Wheezer continued to received backlash for their “controversial” music.

Today, it seems that music censorship has become extinct altogether. As the power of mainstream music artists continues to grow in social media following while embracing sexual lyrics and drug-infested music videos, music censorship may have had no choice but to loosen its grip. Do you think music censorship is no longer a strong force?


Picture: Shutterstock / ID: 2049767987

Make your own music with Ableton.

Ableton LIVE vs. Logic Pro


Support us!

All your donations will be used to pay the magazine’s journalists and to support the ongoing costs of maintaining the site.


paypal smart payment button for simple membership

Share this post

Interested in co-operating with us?

We are open to co-operation from writers and businesses alike. You can reach us on our email at and we will get back to you as quick as we can.

Where to next?

5 Obstacles in Intercultural Communication

When team members from different cultural backgrounds have trouble interacting with one another due to misconceptions or rejection of one another's preferred methods of doing things, interpersonal conflicts can emerge.