The short story of country music is this: women have been telling some dirt truth for a while as a means of survival, as a preservation of history, and as a matter of story telling, teaching, and identity shaping. That’s all fine and good when you can sing with your friends on your porch, but if somebody wants to share your song, story and identity with a huge public audience, your truth-telling notions can get dangerous. Then the FCC and producers and preachers get involved – people who have power and who dislike instigators thinking too hard about their situation. And then your songs get banned! The following are a few famous favorites in chronological order, which were at some point banned from some radio for the following corresponding reasons.
(I’m making an effort to not be alarmist by saying “banned” repeatedly, because that implies some kind of totalitarian edict. What happened, in each of these cases, is that many radio stations or industry conglomerates decided together not to play one or many of these songs on their stations and/or other powerful public figures decried them and insisted on repercussions for those who did not likewise decry them).
1. It wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels – Performed by Kitty Wells, written by J.D. Miller, 1952
Restricted for: addressing a pernicious social fantasy and acknowledging that there are standards of appropriate sexual behavior that apply to some people, but not others.
2. Touch Your Woman – by Dolly Parton, 1972
Restricted for: addressing sexuality and an individual’s unique desires.
3. Would you Lay With Me (in a field of stone), performed by Tanya Tucker, written by David Allan Coe, 1973
Banned for: addressing sexuality and an individual’s unique desires, particularly when voiced by a pretty young person.
(also, David Allan Coe forever: “Should my lips grow dry / Would you wet them dear / In the midnight hour / If my lips were dry. I don’t know why I can’t be mature about this song, despite the glorious 1970s Thornbirds-y melodrama – maybe it reminds me of Wicker Man for some reason. If you know why, tell me).
4. The Pill, Loretta Lynn, 1975
Restricted for: addressing an individual’s right to control huge things that happen to their own body and dominate all ensuing possibilities and practicalities of their life.
5. Traveling Soldier, the Dixie Chicks, 2002
Restricted for: being sung by people who mentioned that Toby Keith spoke without tact or decent information when he enthusiastically lauded the United State’s plan for military operations in Iraq. The subject matter of the Dixie Chicks song, which just happened to be their single when all this shit went down and was therefore the target for the symbolic ostracizing, is one of the best ironies I have ever seen while alive on earth.
6. Follow Your Arrow, Kacey Musgraves, 2013
Restricted for: addressing weed toking, addressing that two individuals who are perceived to have matching sex chromosomes might kiss, addressing pernicious social fantasies and acknowledging that there are standards of appropriate sexual behavior that apply to some people, but not others, addressing sexuality and an individual’s unique desires, encouraging the notion that individuals have a right to control huge things that happen to their own body and dominate all ensuing possibilities and practicalities of their life, and encouraging the notion that individuals should seek truth in personal ways and challenge tradition.
NOTE: If the pattern it seems I’m suggesting feels a little um.. paranoid or conspiracy happy to you, well, don’t ask me for my thoughts on the beauty industry! Or just direct me over to your burner friends for some “yeah, man!” -ing and I’ll be fine. “The government.”