When you’re scanning the radio for a good song, there are usually some stations that are bound to deliver no matter what. Now that I’m no longer in the demographic to care too much for the “hot new hits,” I am sad to say that the classics station is generally a nice place to settle into on long drives. And that is because some bands stand the test of time. Their music is just as enjoyable and relevant as it was when it first hit the charts several decades ago.
You know the tried and true go-tos: The Beatles, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen — the list just goes on.
Have you ever taken a moment, though, to really pay attention to the lyrics that you’re singing in all of those old songs? I did recently and realized that they aren’t all so…appropriate. Here are some classic songs that most likely wouldn’t get made today. (Or at the very least, they wouldn’t become the successes that they were all those years ago.) And sadly, The Beatles show up on this list more than anyone else.
6. Girl — The Beatles
5. Money for Nothing — Dire Straits
I remember hearing the lyrics — really hearing them — in this song just a few years ago and I cringed. The crazy thing is that I did a dance to this in my kindergarten talent show and no one batted an eye. Now, it wouldn’t be allowed to play within blocks of an elementary school. If you still can’t figure out why, sing this part of the song to yourself:
Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire
4. Brown Sugar — The Rolling Stones
This one is all sorts of cringe-worthy. Yes, they’re singing about slaves. The levels of racism and misogyny in this song are staggering. It’s incredible that The Stones ever thought it would be ok to sing about this. What’s worse is that the public actually embraced it.
Sold in the market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he’s doin’ all right
Hear him whip the women just around midnight
Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should
3. I Saw Her Standing There — The Beatles
Obviously The Beatles weren’t old when they sang this, but they also weren’t kids. If ever there were a creepy old man anthem, then this is it. We know what you mean, guys. She’s too young for you. She’s a minor. Please move on to someone you can legally date…
Well she was just seventeen
You know what I mean
And the way she looked
Was way beyond compare
So how could I dance with another,
Oh, when I saw her standing there
2. China Girl — David Bowie
Just the fact that he calls her his “China girl” is bad enough. And don’t even get me started on the possessive nature of this “relationship.” But it wasn’t until recently that I took a closer look at the other words in this song. Should she “mess” with him, he’s basically threatening to destroy her. Oh, how romantic.
I stumble into town just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
Plans for everyone
It’s in the whites of my eyes
My little China girl
You shouldn’t mess with me
I’ll ruin everything you are
1. Run for Your Life — The Beatles
This song has bothered me for quite some time. First, he calls her “little girl.” Nice way to refer to your (presumably) adult girlfriend. Then, if she dares to wander away from him, he will kill her. Yes, that is essentially what this song is saying. There’s no sugar-coating it or making excuses for it. It’s incredibly creepy and scary, and it is disturbing that a band as beloved as The Beatles would ever come up with something like this.
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or you won’t know where I am
Hide your head in the sand, little girl
Catch you with another man
That’s the end’a little girl