Six Most Idiotic Attempts to Blame Musicians for Violent Events (or, the Tucson Tragedy Was Caused by a Crazy Person, Not by Drowning Pool's "Bodies Hit the Floor")
Whenever a horrific tragedy like the mass killing (and attempted political assassination) in Tucson takes place, the media often tries to make sense out of such a senseless act. They look to fragments of killer's social life to try explain what drove that person over the edge.
And just as often, the media blames Metal music.
Since one of Tucson killer Jared Loughner's favorited videos on YouTube was someone burning an American flag to the tune of Drowning Pool's "Bodies Hit the Floor," the Washington Post has turned to metal as a scapegoat. The band released a statement via their website do defend themselves: "We were devastated to learn of the tragic events that occurred in Arizona and that our music has been misinterpreted, again."
The band's song has found controversy before because of a 2003 murder where a teenager killed his parents while listening to the song. The song was also banned from Clear Channel's radio playlist after September 11th. On Tuesday, they issued another statement decrying the WaPo article: "Listening to Drowning Pool music does not make you a bad person. Misleading people does."
But for years, music that some consider extreme (Drowning Pool, Judas Priest, Marilyn Manson) and even some decidedly tamer stuff (The Beatles?) has been scapegoated by politicians as the cause for violence.
Here are the Six Most Idiotic Attempts to Blame Musicians for Violent Events:
6. Mayhem & Norwegian Black Metal Violence
Norwegian black metal has been blamed for much violence in Norway, including multiple church burnings. But few black metal bands are more infamous than Mayhem. In 1991, their lead singer Per Yngve Ohlin aka Dead, killed himself in a house owned by the band. Band member Euronymous found the body and went to the store and bought a camera and took pictures of the body, which ended up as album art on one of the bands bootlegs. Rumor has it that pieces of his skull were kept as mementos. Then in 1993, temporary Mayhem member Varg Vikernes (of Burzum) stabbed and killed Euronymous. Black Metal became subject of intense scrutiny as waves of violence across the country brought the underground music to the media's attention.
5. The Beatles' "Helter Skelter" & Manson Family Murders
Charles Manson predicted that a widespread race war would trigger an end-of-days scenario that he called Helter Skelter. He took the name from a Beatles song off of The White Album, which he thought confirmed his notions about the race war apocalypse. The song itself was about a English roller coaster, but former Manson Family member Catherine Share explained his view in a 2009 documentary, Manson. "Every single song on the White Album, he felt that they were singing about us. The song 'Helter Skelter' -- he was interpreting that to mean the blacks were gonna go up and the whites were gonna go down."
4. Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution" & Teen Suicide
In the late 1980's Ozzy Osbourne's song "Suicide Solution," faced both media and legal wrath. On January 13, 1986 California youth John McCollum committed suicide while listening to the song. His parents took Osbourne to court, alleging that the song's lyrics caused their son to commit suicide.
Osbourne was cleared.
3. Judas Priest's "Better by You, Better Than Me" & Suicide Pact
In one of the more famous instances of music as scapegoat, Judas Priest came under scrutiny in 1985 when 18-year-old Raymond Belknap and 20-year-old James Vance shot themselves in the head after drinking, smoking and listening to Judas Priest's album Stained Glass. Belknap died and Vance lived for three more years totally disfigured. Their families took Priest to court for a $6.2 million lawsuit, claiming that Priest's song, "Better by You, Better Than Me" contained subliminal messaging. The band was found not guilty, but the case set the precedent for bands to be sued for lyrical content.
2. AC/DC's "Night Prowler" & Serial Killer Richard Ramirez
Serial Killer Richard "Night Stalker" Ramirez wreaked havoc on California for 14 months in the 1980s. He committed 16 killings across the state but when he accidentally left an AD/DC hat at one of the crime scenes, the media looked to metal as his motivation for violence. When he was caught and put on trial, Ramirez claimed that AC/DC's song "Night Prowler" inspired him to sneak into people's houses and kill them. The song is actually about a kid sneaking into his girlfriend's house while her parents slept.
And the most messed up attempt to blame a sorta-clownish performer for the actions of some messed up alleged fans is...
1. Marilyn Manson & Columbine's killers
When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students during a rampage at Columbine high school in 1999, the media blamed their "gothness" as having an influence on their atrocious acts. The teens listeded to industrial act KMFDM, German metal-heads Rammstein, and Marylin Manson. Manson received the brunt of the blame, and took to his own defense by writing an eloquent essay for Rolling Stone and appearing in Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine. When Moore asked Manson what he would have said to them just moments before the massacre, Manson replied, "I wouldn't say a thing. I would just listen to them...and that's what nobody did."
BONUS FEATURE PRESENTATION: Here's a 1989 documentary on the horrors of "Rock Music":
For your viewing pleasure, here is a 1989 documentary about the horrors of rock:
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.