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MMD > Archives > January 1997 > 1997.01.01 > 04Prev  Next

Derogatory and Obscene Lyrics
By Stephen Kent Goodman

[ Editors note:
[ S. K. Goodman submitted this letter with the continuing subject,
[ "Re: Questionable Words on Rolls". Since "questionable words" and
[ "politically correct" are wimpy euphemisms, and since I want this
[ subject to be discussed openly, I prefer to "call it as it _is_",
[ and so I re-wrote the Subject line above.
[ Robbie Rhodes

I have a problem with what appears to be an entire generation of censorship. It's called "politically correct". It seems that those who complain about how offensive racial slurs are, ( and they are!), think it is perfectly fine to recut, reprint, and otherwise reissue materials which are morally offensive. I was appalled when I looked though a roll catalog of a modern day dealer whom I purchase from to find the dealer proudly touting how obscene the lyrics were/are to a roll he is reissuing.

Herein lies the double standard. We can try to rewrite our history to eliminate what some may take offense to but what was nonetheless historically accurate (such as Indian war calls, use of racial slurs, etc.), but simultaneously place on a pedestal and worship creative homages to sin.

I am not trying to promote my own stuff here, but my last CD featured titles like "Tar Babies" and "Rastus". These were played enthusiastically by professional musicians who were not racists; indeed, most were Los Angeles liberals who would be the first to cry "Politically Incorrect". The point is that they acknowledge this music as historical and representing a mind-set that has been replaced by modern "values".

If I do another recording, I plan on recording minstrel band numbers, which I am sure that the NAACP and registered democrats everywhere would just as soon burn. Hey... wasn't there another guy in the 1930"s who relished in burning books that didn't agree with his point of view? I guess "politically correct" isn't new after all.

Finally a footnote: I think it is sadly ironic that in a group dedicated to mechanical music instruments, the closest thing that comes to discuss- ing the MUSIC, which is what they are all about in the first place, is an exchange on the issue of lyrics that may or may not be offensive to some. What about the music? Anyone for "Rap" on a Helios?

S. K. Goodman

[ Editors comments:
[ It's not ironic: The only reason the _music_ isn't discussed here is
[ that e-mail, today, is good for only _words_. Someday I hope we can
[ have "Sound Bytes" in the Digest. Then we'll have a lot of fun!
[ In the letter above the issues of "racial slurs" and "obscene language"
[ are given separate identities. However, both are elements of "vulgar
[ speech", which is simply the common speech of society.
[ So why is vulgar speech and song labeled as "derogatory" or "obscene"?
[ Or "politically incorrect" or "immoral"? That's simply the way people
[ talk!
[ Well, we know why ... It's yet another aspect of "conforming with the
[ rules of society" -- the society _we_ live in -- _Our_ society.
[ I don't believe a discussion _about_ offensive lyrics will offend our
[ readers; I think that folks who enjoy antiques and old-time music and
[ the surrounding history are pretty open-minded! Let's continue this
[ topic awhile. Whether it's a double standard, or simply human nature,
[ we all know that some songs are funny to us, even as we recognise the
[ obscene or derogatory connotations.
[ Robbie Rhodes

(Message sent Wed 1 Jan 1997, 18:06:01 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Derogatory, Lyrics, Obscene

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