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14 Songs With Racist Lyrics That Could Never Be Released Today

Updated September 1, 2020 2.0k votes 331 voters 10.0k views14 items

List RulesVote up the songs with the most problematic lyrics.

If you listen to music from past decades, you may come across a few songs on the radio, on TV, or in movies that give you pause. Some songs from the past could never be written today - cultural mores have changed, and what was passable yesterday may no longer be acceptable, especially in terms of racial sensitivity.

The following songs from past decades all feature lyrics that are considered racially insensitive by today's standards. Many of these were even hits when they were released, and they're the products of some of the biggest names in the industry, including  Elton John, Cher, and Guns N' Roses. Can we still listen to these songs as we did in past years, or do their less-than-appropriate lyrics make us want to change the station?

  • Video: YouTube

    Guns N' Roses left the song "One In A Million" off the reissue of their 1988 debut EP,  G N' R Lies. With lyrics mentioning police, homosexuals, and the N-word, the song was controversial even when it was released.

    Singer Axl Rose and guitarist Slash defended the song when it came out, but the band has since changed its tune. Slash said, "We collectively decided that it just didn’t have any place in that box set."

    Are these lyrics offensive?
  • 2

    'Wig Wam Bam' By The Sweet

    Video: YouTube

    The Sweet were more popular in the UK than they were in the US, so they may not have faced as much backlash for their song "Wig Wam Bam" as they would have if they were well-known in the States.

    The lyrics are rife with insensitive references to the Native American community, as the song is a rock version of Henry Longfellow's poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," published in 1855. The band usually dressed in Native American costumes when they performed the song.

    Are these lyrics offensive?
  • 3

    'Half-Breed' By Cher

    Video: YouTube

    The term "half-breed" is considered offensive in Native American communities, though this didn't stop Cher from releasing a song of the same name in 1973. She insisted at the time that she was part Cherokee, which may have stifled any protests against the song when it was released.

    She performed the song in a full feathered headress on the The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and has done so ever since. Outside of a claim that her mother has some Cherokee blood, Cher is fairly far from a spokesperson for Native American culture, and she became involved in several Twitter feuds over the song and her heritage in 2017. Despite the controversy, she refuses to remove it - or the costume - from her shows.

    Are these lyrics offensive?
  • Video: YouTube

    This Elton John song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. "Island Girl" tells the story of a Jamaican escort in New York City.

    Written by Elton's long-time partner, Bernie Taupin, the song is now considered wildly offensive due to lines such as, "What you wanting with the white man's world?" and "Black boy want you in his island world," all sung with an affected island patois. Elton has not performed it since 1990.

    Are these lyrics offensive?