September 11, 2007

Politically Correct Lyrics - Part One



You know what I love about this blog? The comments you people leave! I could spend all day responding in depth to some of the things said here. I can rarely find anyone in person to get into good discussions with, but here something always sparks a thought.

This thought was sparked by Jeff's comment on the last post. He shared a lyric from John Lennon's song "Woman is the Nigger of the World". I just cringed typing the "N" word. Its considered to be such a negative word that books containing it have been banned from school libraries, its not allowed to be said on radio shows, its rarely used because of the controversy surrounding it.

Even back in 1972 when John and Yoko (she coined the phrase) recorded the song, it was banned from many radio stations even though the message behind the song was something a lot of people agreed with.

My question is: Do you think John would use that same term today in the title/lyric of a song?



Part Two on another day. My mind works faster than my energy lasts, if that makes sense.


10 comments:

Jeff said...

I personally despise the word and for the most part think it's appalling that someone would even use the word but in the instance of Lennon I think it was used wisely. It shows the great injustices and problems in society and the injustices of history. When a lyric is so bold people will listen especially when it brings forth controversy. I also think that John would still use that lyric today, just because of the fact that he was such a revolutionary type of figure who wanted to push boundaries.

bob_vinyl said...

I think John would use the same word today unless he could think of something else that would stir us up even more. It just goes to show that even the most offensive word can be wielded for good. It wouldn't have the same power if he called the song, "Women are the Most Universally Oppressed People in All the World" now would it?

The Dead Kennedys also use the word in their song, "Holiday in Cambodia". While it isn't as central to the song as Lennon's use, you can see how it reinforces the song's point in a way that a less emotionally charged word would not.

Angie said...

Patti Smith also used it in her song Rock 'n Roll N***** (I can't write it either, even though we all know what I mean to say. Hypocritical of me, I know, but it's just such a loaded word, I can't write it).

Anyway, her song was so incendiary and powerful, I often wonder how it would go down in our more politically correct world, where a lot of people may miss the point of her lyrics.

Like I said, it's a word loaded with such painful history, but it has such power because of that as well. I suppose it's a question of who has the right to wield that power?

Bruce said...

John had no qualms with ruffling feathers back then, and I doubt if he'd be any different today, even at the age of 67. If you've ever seen any of his interviews, especially the ones with Dick Cavett and Tom Snyder, where he was given the opportunity to speak his mind, you know what I'm talking about.

Cyberoutlaw said...

Of course Lennon would use it today. It was much more risky for a white man to use that word back then, in the aftermath of the civil rights upheaval, but I don't think there was any doubt about where he stood on that issue either. I think the more telling line in that song is "Woman is the slave to the slave." That line brings his message across even louder, in my opinion.

Perhaps the greatest misconception about racism and sexism is that it has to be in your face in order to earn the label when the reality is that more often than not both are very subtle and nuanced. You don't have to be a card carrying chauvinist pig or a hood wearing bigot to believe in the same things they do, and I believe Lennon puts that across very well in far fewer words than I just did, LOL!

Malcolm: said...

You posed a very good question Barbara. I went back and forth on this and now think that John would use the word today in a song. If people listened to the message of the song, it may not even cause too much controversy.

On a side note, Patti Smith performed "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year. Although the song isn't racist, I am surprised that there weren't protests from people who are offended by the word regardless of how it is used.

Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Thanks for the excellent comments to this.

I am trying to come up with Part Two of the post. Its simmering on the back burner of my mind...

bob_vinyl said...

Another song that uses the word to great effect is Sly and the Family Stone's "Don't Call me Nigger, Whitey." There was also a great cover of this done by Perry Farrell and Ice-T.

TJ said...

i love this post ...

Perplexio said...

The word is so charged with negative energy today (even morseo than it was then) that it's tough to say.

Keep in mind that in the late 60s and early 70s we weren't near as politically correct as a society as we are today.

Richard Pryor used to drop the N-bomb quite liberally in his routine. When asked later in his life why he'd done that he said he was trying to take the sting out of it. I guess the rationale was that if he over-used the word it wouldn't pack as much of a punch.

Honestly I don't know whether or not Lennon would use that word today. There's a part of me that says, yes, given his nature and his willingness to challenge authority he most certainly would have.

But there's another part of me that says no. That word is so much more "negatively charged" today than it was in the seventies (heck even the otherwise "tame" Supertramp dropped the N-bomb on their 1971 sophomore release, Indelibly Stamped) to the point where regardless of the context the word is used-- the message gets lost in the word.

That is to say. I don't know that Lennon could have made the same impact dropping the N-bomb in that song today as he did then because people would have gotten so caught up in the fact that he used the word that they would have totally ignored the context in which it was used. And Lennon was a smart man, I believe he would have realized this and possibly have found another clever way to deliver that same message.

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