Friday, May 06, 2005

Protecting the kids
Mustang Bobby brings us the latest example of conservative culture warriors embarassing themselves.
Benton Harbor [Michigan] Superintendent Paula Dawning cited the song's allegedly raunchy lyrics in ordering the McCord Middle School band not to perform it in Saturday's Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival.

In a letter sent home with McCord students, Dawning said "Louie Louie" was not appropriate for Benton Harbor students to play while representing the district -- even though the marching band wasn't going to sing it.

Band members and parents complained to the Board of Education at its Tuesday meeting that it was too late to learn another song, The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph reported.


"Louie Louie," written by Richard Berry in 1956, is one of the most recorded songs in history. The best-known, most notorious version was a hit in 1963 for the Kingsmen; the FBI spent two years investigating the lyrics before declaring they not only were not obscene but also were "unintelligible at any speed."

To summarize, the school superintendant has decided to ban an instumental performance of one of the best known songs in America, because she once heard a rumor that the lyrics might be raunchy. This is forty years after the FBI determined they are not. On that last point, you've got to envy the kind of job security that allows someone to spend two years looking up the lyrics to a song and listening to the record a couple times. Maybe they even phoned the songwriter or the singer.

We turn to The Straight Dope to set the record straight:
[T]he "real" lyrics to "Louie Louie" are about as racy as a Neil Simon script, and almost as dumb. What's more, we have the assurance of the man who wrote the song, one Richard Berry, that the Kingsmen did not spice it up in the studio.

The song was about seven years old when the Kingsmen recorded their version in 1963, and the fantastic legend that grew up in its wake--a legend that even an FCC investigation couldn't kill--seems to have sprung solely from their extraordinary lack of elocution.

Berry, who spoke on the subject a while back to a Los Angeles interviewer named Bill Reed, explains the song as the lament of a seafaring man, spoken to a sympathetic bartender named Louie.

The real lyrics to Louie, Louie are:
Louie Louie, me gotta go.
Louie Louie, me gotta go.
A fine little girl, she wait for me.
Me catch the ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone.
I never think I'll make it home.

Louie Louie, me gotta go.
Three nights and days we sailed the sea.
Me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there.
I smell the rose in her hair.

Louie Louie, me gotta go.
Me see Jamaican moon above.
It won't be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I never leave again.
Louie Louie, me gotta go.

(By Richard Berry. Copyright 1957-1963 by Limax Music Inc.)

Gotta protect those kids from faux-Calypso. 'Cause we all know it leads to the harder stuff, like Harry Belafonte.

I think we need to send all elected officials to some kind of boot camp where we will pound into their small minds (in a loving Dobsonian way) the fact that being elected to office is not a license to force all of your prejudices on the public or to run around abolishing all of your pet peeves. In the last year alone we have had local buffoons try to ban exposed midrifts (Louisiana), low riding pants (Virginia), "suggestive" cheerleading (Texas), books with gay characters (Georgia), and now "Louie, Louie."

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