Offensive Lyrics Policy

Even in the 1700′s, many considered music offensive. It is hard to believe that classical music would offend anyone, but when composers began using passages from the Bible for lyrics to music that was to be played outside the church, there were major consequences to be paid. Jeremy Collier, a seventeenth-century Englishman, thought that music was “almost as dangerous as gunpowder” and might require “looking after no less than the press.” In the 50′s, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard were considered scandalous.

“To conservative adults in the 50′s, the new music of the day appeared to be an expression of hostile, rebellious youth. To his enthusiastic audience, Presley’s spontaneous dancing was a visual counterpart to the feelings which his singing inspired.”

(Belz, 1969).

“With its black roots, earthy, sexual lyrics, and exuberant acceptance by youth, rock and roll has long been under attack by the established world of adults. No other form of culture, and its artists, has met with such extensive hostility.”

(Martin and Seagrave, 1988).

Pop music has and always will be filled with innuendo and blatant suggestions of sex. When the Rolling Stones appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, they had to change the lyrics of their song “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to a milder Let’s Spend Some Time Together.” In the 60s, the Beach Boys were admiring women who kept their boyfriends “warm at night.” The song “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen was banned from the radio stations and their record was burned because the lyrics were thought to be dirty, though unrecognizable. In fact, it was about a man going to sea and how he will miss a girl: “Fine little girl waits for me, Catch a ship across the sea, Sail the ship about all alone, Never know if I make it home.”

In the 70′s, KC and the Sunshine Band sang “Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight” and “That’s the way uh huh, uh huh, I like it.” And don’t forget “Shake, shake, shake your booty!” That music seems pretty innocent by today’s standards. The fact remains that popular music continues to be filled with sexuality and rebellion.

Ok, that’s enough of the history lesson. It’s just a fact that a lot of popular music (past and present) is chock full of suggestive lyrics. It will, therefore, always offend someone. Even when a song is innocent and contains no sexual suggestion, if it is sung suggestively, it could still offend. Never has this been more the case than with today’s Hip Hop/Rap/R&B music. I play Top 40 music regularly and, even with headphones, I can’t understand the lyrics to many of the songs on the Top 40 charts. But, I do my very best to screen the new music that comes out and I keep notes on the ones that I feel are questionable.

We at Sullivan Productions do not want to offend anyone by playing music that is inappropriate. We rely on our experience and common sense to determine what is and isn’t appropriate. But, we are not infallible. We also want to play music that will create a busy and fun dance floor. The fact is, a large percentage of people who like to dance, like to dance to Top 40 music, and most of that music is suggestive. Quite often, guests have requested the music we play. We have a Top 200 nationally requested song list that we use as a tool to help with our shows. This list has many songs that most people like to dance to, however, it also contains some songs that may offend people. Some songs contain words or phrases such as “butt,” “bend over,” “make love,” etc.

At Sullivan Productions events, all of our Top 40 songs are the radio edits. But, you probably know as well as I do that even the radio edits push the boundaries. We try NOT to play music that we feel is a promotion of sex, drugs, or violence. With that being said, please remember that Steve Miller wrote the classic rock song called “The Joker” with the lyric “I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker.” This is an example of a song we might play. On the other hand, “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton is a song I doubt I would play.

Whenever there is a complaint or concern, we prefer that our paying client set the standard for what music is appropriate to play and what is not.

School dances bring this concern to a whole new level. Along with the questionable songs, there is the issue of “dirty dancing.” I want to make it clear that Sullivan Productions will NOT be held responsible for curtailing this activity. That responsibility lies with the chaperones.

Please email us a list of any “No Play” songs. It is my goal to create a fun, party atmosphere without offending anyone. This can only be done through good communication. So, please take the time to list any of these “No Play” songs if this issue is a concern and attach them in an email with our contract.


Seth L. Sullivan

Sullivan Production

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