You Don’t Know How it Feels – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
This track was a big hit for Tom Petty, boosting his career. Unfortunately, that success came with a great deal of controversy, mainly due to the tune’s drug-related lyrics. These taboo topics led to the song being banned by many radio stations across the States, though Petty quickly released an edited version that was suitable for radio play.
Imagine – John Lennon
Perhaps John Lennon’s most iconic song, Imagine explores motifs of world peace and global love. However, more conservative-inclined radio stations banned the tune due to its supposed communist ideals, seeing it as an attack on the American Dream. These thought processes only gained traction following the 9/11 attacks.
Louie, Louie – The Kingsman
Believe it or not, but Louie, Louie was investigated by the FBI in the 1960s, supposedly due to its incomprehensible and potentially offensive lyrics. The controversy remains embedded in society decades later, with a high school marching band being banned from using the song in the early 2000s – even as an instrumental.
Walk Like an Egyptian – The Bangles
Despite being a staple of any party playlist, Walk Like An Egyptian was banned by both the BBC in 1991 and Clear Channel 2001. With concerns rising about offense being caused to those with Egyptian heritage, the stations thought the best cause of action was to pull the track entirely.
Like a Prayer – Madonna
Madonna’s no stranger to controversy, with the pop star purposely antagonizing people in positions of power throughout the course of her career. The smash hit Like A Prayer received boycotts from religious groups around the world, due to its supposed blasphemous content in both the lyrics and the music video.
Rolling in the Deep – Adele
One of Adele’s career-defining hits caused quite a stir on radio stations. The official lyrics contain the word “ship”, though listeners heard an expletive that sounds awfully close to the original word, resulting in many complaints. Adele changed the word to “stuff” during live performances, and her handwritten lyrics revealed she did, in fact, originally pen the curse word.
If U Seek Amy – Britney Spears
Britney’s 2009 single caused a fair deal of backlash, though it was entirely intentional. What’s the issue with her infamous track, If U Seek Amy? Say the title five times fast, and pay attention to what word emerges. The clever wordplay resulted in a ban across radio stations across the world, not wishing to offend any listeners.
The Real Slim Shady – Eminem
Eminem’s iconic track The Real Slim Shady was so controversial that a Colorado-based radio station received a fine from the FCC for playing the clean version of the track. Despite all offensive curse words being removed, the FCC still felt that the rapper’s track violated its decency standards.
Take the Power Back – Rage Against the Machine
As their band names suggests, Rage Against the Machine purposely cause mischief against the establishment. Their controversial antics even had consequences two decades after the tune’s release, with an Arizona teacher being scolded for playing the track during a Mexican-American history class, going against educational standards.
Light My Fire – The Doors
When performing their iconic track on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Doors were asked to alter the lyric “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher”, not wishing to cause offense to viewers. Jim Morrison, however, sang the line as it was, leading to the band being banned from appearing on the series ever again.
Lola – The Kinks
The Kinks’ popular tune Lola was banned by BBC radio stations due to the lyric “Where they drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola”. Although the lyric is seemingly innocent enough, the BBC felt the lyric went against their strict advertising rules, resulting in the band re-recording the song with new lyrics of “cherry cola”.
Juicy – The Notorious B.I.G.
Notorious B.I.G. has his name for a reason. When he dropped his single in 1997, the track featured the out-of-touch line “Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade”. After the tragic events of 9/11, the track was completely pulled from radio play.
Physical – Olivia Newton John
Despite Physical being a career-defining hit for Olivia Newton John, there was a great deal of outcry about the track. With the tune featuring some rather raunchy lyrics, many radio stations refused to play the track. The music video also showed a same-sex couple holding hands, resulting in further bans across TV networks.
Living in Sin – Bon Jovi
As the song title suggests, Living In Sin explored religious allegories. Bon Jovi’s Top 10 single was ultimately banned by MTV due to the depictions of a young girl living in sin with her boyfriend against her parents’ wishes, causing outrage amongst religiously devout communities.
In the Air Tonight – Phil Collins
Nobody is safe from controversy – not even Phil Collins. Although the song may seem like an innocent exploration of love, many radio stations banned the track not once, but twice. The first ban came during the Gulf War, while the second was due to 9/11, due to concerns over potential references to the Middle East.
WAP – Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion
Cardi B’s WAP divided music fans, with some seeing the track as a celebration of femininity and female power. Others, however, took great offense at the song’s lyrics, due to the tune exploring sexuality in graphic terms. Many stations pulled the song due to its explicit content.
Baby It’s Cold Outside – Various Artists
Although Baby It’s Cold Outside is a holiday classic, the tune has come under fire in recent years. Many people feel as though the song enforces misogynistic gender ideals, even going as far as to suggest that the lyrics endorse non-consensual persuasions. Due to this, the track has recently been banned on many US radio stations.
Judas – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is often known for being intentionally controversial, from wearing a dress made of meat to advocating for gay rights in Russia. Many saw her track Judas as being blasphemous, with the singer comparing her lover to Jesus’s betrayer. Worse still, Gaga released the track on Easter Sunday, causing quite the outcry.
Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead – The Wizard of Oz
This track took many years to cause a stir, with a ban not happening until 2013. When former prime minister Margaret Thatcher passed away, the track hit the #2 spot in the UK. The BBC eventually banned the song from being played on radio, not wishing to celebrate the morbid affair of death.
Brown-Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl sweetly explores the theme of young love. However, the lyric “Making love in the green grass” lead to many radio stations refusing to play the tune. It didn’t take much time for Van Morrison to quickly release an edited version of the track, omitting the suggestive lyric altogether.
Splish Splash – Bobby Darin
All the way back in 1958, Splish Splash caused a bit of an uproar. The lyrics detail a man who emerges from his bathtub and enters a party completely naked. Naturally, the content was pulled from numerous media outlets, with sensibilities of the 1950s being stricter than they are today.
Puff the Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul, and Mary
Despite being a song catered to children, many people believed that Puff the Magic Dragon alluded to drug use. Peter, Paul, and Mary have all insisted that the song is stemmed in innocent roots, but that didn’t stop listeners’ imaginations from running wild, coming to darker conclusions.
My Generation – The Who
You may think that The Who’s My Generation was banned due to its anti-authoritarian content. In fact, the BBC banned the tune for perhaps the strangest reason yet – feeling that those who suffered from a stutter would be offended at the fast vocal delivery. Eventually, the ban was dropped.
Atomic – Blondie
Despite being an iconic staple of the 80s, Blondie’s Atomic faced its fair share of controversy in 1991. The track was banned by radio networks during the Gulf War, with stations harboring fears that listeners would potentially take offense to the track’s nuclear namesake.
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
Back in 1966, many radio stations across the United States banned God Only Knows for one simple reason – the fact that it used the word “God” in its title. Despite songwriter Brian Wilson claiming the track wasn’t blasphemous in any way, the bans still remained in place. And they call the youth of today sensitive…
Royals – Lorde
Royals became one of 2014’s biggest smashes, with numerous radio stations across the US frequently playing Lorde’s breakout track. However, the tune came out during the World Series between Kansas City Royals and the San Fransico Giants. The Royals adopted the tune as their theme song, with many San Fran stations banning the track during the course of the series.
I Want Your Sex – George Michael
George Michael led a hedonistic, lust-filled lifestyle during the 1980s, with I Want Your Sex reflecting his raunchy actions. Due to the graphic content depicted within the song’s lyrics, numerous BBC radio stations banned the track upon its release due to the suggestive title alone.
Red Nation – The Game
Red Nation was banned by a slew of radio stations – as well as MTV – due to its questionable lyrics that supposedly endorsed drug use and gang culture. Despite this, the song went on to be a chart-topping hit, with The Game even stating that he wished more stations had placed a ban on the track.
Will You Love Me Tomorrow – The Shirelles
This song has been so ingrained in musical culture that it’s hard to see how it could cause a stir. Written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, the tune received a hefty amount of backlash to its lyrical implications, with the suggestive words alluding to a one-night stand. At the time, the thought of such a thing was incredibly scandalous.
War – Edwin Star/Bruce Springsteen
Despite being an anti-war anthem, preaching love and world peace, Bruce Springsteen’s cover of the hit track caused quite the stir. The tune was banned during the Gulf War and after the events of 9/11, with the mere mention of the word “war” being seen as insensitive.
What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
What a strange world we live in! To ensure that radio stations weren’t seen as being insensitive, What A Wonderful World was included on Clear Channel’s banned list after the events of 9/11. The reason behind the ban? Executives feared that the song was too happy for such a tragic time.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction is an iconic tune, known by millions of people all around the world. At the time of the track’s release, however, many radio stations refused to play the song, believing that the lyrics of the song explored overtly sexual themes that were inappropriate for listeners.
Greased Lightning – John Travolta
Grease is one of the most beloved musicals of all time, with Greased Lightning serving as the movie’s most iconic track. When the song was first released, however, numerous radio stations panned the song. Many executives felt that the language used in the tune was too sexual, resulting in a short-lived ban of the tune.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Frank Loesser
It’s not just the covers of Baby It’s Cold Outside that have faced numerous bans, but the original, too. Despite winning Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1949, radio stations err on the side of caution when playing the track during the Christmas period, fearing the song puts too much pressure on women to cater to the wills of men.
Love Game – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga didn’t waste much time making a splash on the pop scene, with one of her early singles resulting in a few raised eyebrows. The suggestive lyrics of “I wanna take a ride on your disco stick” were deemed as being too sexual for many radio stations, resulting in numerous bans.
Wake Up Little Susie – The Everly Brothers
Although this song may seem innocent enough in the 21st century, it was seem as contentious back in the day. The lyrics of the tune describe two children staying up late at a sleepover, which seems perfectly acceptable for radio play. However, another listen brings up some suggestive connotations – leading to some people calling for the track to be pulled from radio play.
Johnny Remember Me – John Leyton
This John Leyton song was banned due to its supposedly morbid themes, with Leyton’s lyrics exploring the idea of a young male being haunted by the ghost of a girl he was in love with.The song was branded as a “death disc” by many major radio outlets, with the supernatural content leading to an eventual ban.
Burn My Candle – Shirley Bassey
Burn My Candle was released back in 1956 – causing an unintentional stir. Many people thought that the lyrics of the tune were too racy for radio play, resulting in a ban. Shirley Bassey was completely unaware that the lyrics could be interpreted in such a manner. Thankfully, her career was unaffected by the controversy.
Act of War – Elton John and Millie Jackson
The mere mention of the word “war” in this song’s title was enough to get it banned. The 1985 track was pulled from all of the BBC’s radio stations during the Gulf War, with executives fearing that the track would promote a political point of view.
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s iconic tune features the repeated lyrics of “God Almighty world”, which was enough for the BBC to pull it from their airwaves. The broadcaster feared that the use of God’s name in vain would cause offence to listeners, preferring to play it safe by avoiding the track entirely.