Today’s sound of music is a far beat from the 1965 Mary Poppins’ soundtrack. Old school sanitized hits like I’m Gonna Make You Love Me have been replaced by a genre of sexually explicit (some would say downright obscene) tunes like My Neck, My Back.
A sexagenarian (How’s that for a play on words?) friend of mine enjoys good music as much as I do. Like other mature people of our generation as we aged-out of youthful imprudence into responsible adulthood some things changed, but not our taste in music. However, unlike me, my friend can readily identify some of the contemporary and hip-hop artists about whom I know nothing and could care less. And while I consider much of the present-day music to be a waste of talent and airspace, he often defends it. But something that occurred recently when he was dining in a buffet-style restaurant gave him second thoughts.
When he began telling me the story, I figured that he was going to gross me out about the food. I didn’t want to hear that, because I have occasionally eaten at that place (that I will not name), although it has never been on my list of favorites.
It turns out that his complaint was not about the food or the service. His beef was over the sexually explicit lyrics in a song that was playing over the restaurant’s sound system as he was preparing to leave. He said he approached the owner and a clerk who were standing at the register near the doorway and in an unobtrusive voice complained that the music playing was unsuitable in a family diner. His expression of disapproval apparently motivated some other patrons who were standing nearby because a few of them chimed in. One man, who my friend guessed to be fortyish in spite of his backward-turned cap, said, “He’s right. There are small children in here. They don’t need to be listening to that s**t.”
Then, an older woman described as having the demeanor of a no-nonsense, church lady, added, “It’s a shame. This is a family restaurant. That music is totally inappropriate in a place like this. This ain’t some hip-hop joint.”
The owner apologetically explained that it was Sirius XM radio and added that he had no control over what the station was playing. As he left, my friend heard someone in the group (perhaps it was church lady) say, “Is it unreasonable to think that you could change the channel?”
When I asked my friend what was the name of the song. He said, he didn’t know it, but then he repeated some of the lewd lyrics. (Did you think that I was going to write those words here? Really?) No, I’m can’t name that tune either, but I’ll bet it’s on the Rankers list of rappers with the dirtiest rhymes. Finished reading this post, before your curiosity leads you to rush over to that page and check out the list.
Some of you readers may remember that in 1985, Tippy Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore, spearheaded an organization called The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). It championed the cause for including Parental Advisory labels on albums containing foul language and explicit lyrics.
PMRC faced strenuous objection from numerous people, including many in the music industry like John Denver, Ice Tea, and Frank Zappa, who protested that the proposed labeling would result in censorship.
In his book, “The Ice Opinion” published in 1994, Ice T wrote, “Tipper Gore is the only woman I directly called a bitch on any of my records.” In the same book, he later seems to express regret, saying, that he was 15 years old during the time of the PMRC controversy. He continues with, “I am now 41 years old and the father of two teenaged girls.” Ice T, whose real name is Tracy Lauren Marrow is now 60 years old with three daughters. I wonder how much has he changed his tune?
Although Tippy Gore and three other women whose husbands held prominent positions were successful in forming the PMRC, that guidelines and rating system did not last.
The current Parental Advisory warning label, trademarked by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) grew out of the PMRC. It was introduced in 1990, the same year that PMRC shut down. The label, now affixed to germane music products and other merchandise, does not control what is broadcast over radio programs. And while some broadcasters play edited versions of songs to eliminate content that may be considered objectionable or age-inappropriate, owners of restaurants and other businesses should assume some responsibility for music played in their establishments.