Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Clear Channel Blacklist

This was news to me: After September 11, 2001, the media conglomerate Clear Channel circulated a list of songs that it "suggested" shouldn't be played on its 1,200 radio stations (source). The songs were called "lyrically questionable."


The list included (among many others):

  • What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
  • Walk Like an Egyptian by the Bangles
  • A Day in the Life, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, and Ticket to Ride by the Beatles
  • Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne
  • That'll Be the Day by Buddy Holly
  • Wonderful World by Sam Cooke
  • He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by the Hollies
  • Bennie and the Jets, Daniel, and Rocket Man by Elton John
  • Imagine by John Lennon
  • Dancing in the Street by Martha and the Vandellas
  • Travelin' Man by Ricky Nelson
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel
  • War by Edwin Starr (and Bruce Springsteen) 
  • Morning Has Broken and Peace Train by Cat Stevens
Plus any song by Rage Against the Machine!

While I disagree with the idea of making a list like this in general, I can understand the reluctance to play songs about planes crashing, fires, or bodies falling.

But these songs aren't about those things. Some seem to have no connection at all (Travelin' Man? A Day in the Life?) Others are about peace (Imagine, War, Peace Train, He Ain't Heavy), which seems like a good thing to hear about after that awful morning. It's hard not to think that blacklisting them had an overt political purpose.

I remember September 11 and the days after it, when it seemed as though it would never be possible to tell a joke again. I'm sure the people who run our media were in crisis mode themselves, trying to cover it and continue to operate in anyway similar to business as usual. But this list was not the way to go.

1 comment:

Crystal said...

Just recently I was thinking about this list, for some reason. In 2001 I worked for a sports team, and when I saw the list then (how? this was before Twitter and Facebook - perhaps it was on a sports listserve?), I sent it to the gameday operations staff as something to consider. Until today, the only song I remembered from that list was "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind, one that I thought did make sense to keep out of the rotation for awhile. I still think of it every time I hear that song, which admittedly isn't often. And now that I've seen the whole list again, I remember being confused by a number of the other songs.