Rock & roll songs have been all about sex since the get-go, but over the decades more than a few gems have crossed the line into territory that makes our skin crawl. The #MeToo movement has certainly brought misogynistic behavior to the forefront of our consciousness. Here are some he-said-what examples you may want to think twice about singing along to in public. Please note we've left The Rolling Stones off this because they deserve their own list.
“Don't Make No Promises (Your Body Can't Keep)” — Scorpions
Besides having atrocious grammar, lead singer Klaus Meine proclaims he “saw this girl walking down the street.” Furthermore, he thought, “Oh yeah, she looks rather neat.” Already we're nervous about the narrator's motives, but when she shows up at a show — apparently, this is autobiographical — and the two hook up afterward, it's revealed her “rather neat” looks are credited to “padded bra, blonde wig, not much left for me.”
“Ain't No Woman Like the One I've Got” — The Four Tops
The Four Tops (humblebrag?) had some lovely harmonies. Here, we're not complaining about the coarse grammar or the fact that they're boasting about ownership of their woman. When Sonny & Cher sang their “got-ness' for each other, it was cute. This song has almost two minutes of sweet, melodic sentiments any gal would love to hear: “Every day the sun comes up around her/She can make the birds sing harmony/Every drop of rain is glad it found her/Heaven must have made her just for me.” Swoon, right? They really can't say enough kind things about her, but by the 1:47 mark, a Top sings one teeny tiny two-syllable word: “obey.” As in “I would kiss the ground she walks on, 'Cause it's my word, my word she'll obey, now. Woo-ooh.” Woo-no.
“Lemon Incest” — Serge Gainsbourg
Here we have a shirtless papa Serge, a giant bed, a big bag of feathers and one supremely disinterested 12-year-old girl, his daughter Charlotte ... and not much else. Sample lyric: “The love we’ll never make together is the most rare, the most troubling, the most pure, the most heady.” Maybe it's less creepy in French. No surprise the song caused quite the grande scandale when it came out in 1984, though more people are offended by Charlotte's singing than the subject matter.
“I Got a Woman” — Ray Charles
Ray Charles knew what he wanted from a relationship. It goes something like this: “She's there to love me/Both day and night/Never grumbles or fusses/Always treats me right/Never runnin' in the streets/Leavin' me alone/She knows a woman's place/Is right there, now, in her home.” What'd he say?
“Cinderella” — Firefall
Ah, the '70s. This song is so sand-swept with California harmonies you can practically smell the macrame. The young woman in question “imagined love to be grand/Me holdin' her hand and whisperin' sweet things and cooin' softly like a song bird.”
Sounds sweet enough.
“Then one mornin' she came to me/With a tear in her eye and a/Sigh on her breath Lord she said/'Hon I'm heavy with child.” How did our narrator react? “Cinderella can't you see/Don't want your company/You better leave this mornin' leave today/Take your love and your child away.”
In other words, “Pregnant? Get lost, sweetie.”
“Figured You Out” — Nickelback
No opportunity to bash Nickelback should ever be passed up. The band claims to have “Figured You Out” by singing "I like your pants around your feet/And I like the dirt that's on your knees/And I like the way you say please/While you're looking up at me/You're like my favourite damn disease." At least he's complimentary and polite about his desire for her. A commentator on YouTube said it best: “This song sounds like creepy stalker poetry that a 15-year-old might send his girlfriend.”
“Touch Me” — The Doors
Oh sure, he says he's gonna love you “till the heaven stops the rain” and all, but no amount of peppy horns can distract you from the fact that he is ordering said female to touch him. And furthermore, “What was that promise that you made?” sounds like a threat to me. Jerk.
“You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful You're Mine)” — Ringo Starr
There's a ton of predatory ick factor going on in these lyrics: “You come on like a dream, peaches and cream/Lips like strawberry wine/You're 16, you're beautiful/And you're mine (mine, all mine)”
Do we really need to explain why this is so wrong? How about this?
“You're my baby, you're my pet/We fell in love on the night we met/You touched my hand, my heart went pop/Ooh, when we kissed, I could not stop.”
Stop, Ringo; you're gross.
“Getting Better” — The Beatles
“I used to be cruel to my woman/I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/Man, I was mean but I'm changing my scene/And I'm doing the best that I can (ooh),” sings Paul McCartney. Um ... while it's encouraging that you are putting all this beating stuff in the past tense, it's still troubling. Are you telling us “it's getting better all the time” but it's not completely better due to the fact that you're still a little cruel?
Though mainly written by McCartney, John Lennon is also credited for the whole “cruel to my woman” line, and he admitted this was a true confession. “I was a hitter,” he told Playboy in 1980. “I couldn't express myself and I hit.” Bonus offense: The Smash Mouth version from kids movie The Cat in the Hat.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
“Young Girl” — Gary Puckett & The Union Gap/“Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” — Neil Diamond
Do we really have to explain why these are so yucky?
“In the Summertime” — Mungo Jerry
It's probably not the only offensive song with a jug-blower, but it might be the catchiest. And the mutton-choppiest. “Sing along with us/Dee dee dee-dee dee/Dah dah dah-dah dah/Yeah we're hap-happy” is pretty innocent. But after imploring us to "have a drink and a drive,” singer Ray Dorset offers, “If her daddy's rich take her out for a meal/If her daddy's poor just do what you feel.” How Trumpian of him.