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Old 02-10-2020, 04:25 PM
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Bowdlerized songs


Back in 1982, in a more innocent time, the band Musical Youth had a UK number one hit single with the song Pass The Dutchie. Musical Youth were, as the name suggests, a bunch of kids, and (as I remember) the parents of several of them were heavily involved in helping the kids put the record together. A Dutchie, by the way, is a Dutch Cooking Pot, so it’s a happy song about mealtimes. Except……

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…..the track combined two songs: "Gimme the Music" by U Brown, and "Pass the Kouchie" by Mighty Diamonds, which deals with the recreational use of cannabis (kouchie being slang for a cannabis pipe)....
(Wiki page, and here’s that original song by the Mighty Diamonds.)

As I said, it was a more innocent time, a time when you couldn’t have fresh-faced kids singing about drugs, so the elements from Pass The Kouchie were bowdlerized for Musical Youth to use, presumably by their parents. Which got me thinking – how common is the bowdlerization of songs?

The other example that springs immediately to mind is The Fairy Tale Of New York, whose bowdlerization was discussed in this thread (with some splendidly offensive suggestions by dopers, BTW, to get around the problem word “Faggot”), but so far as I can tell there hasn’t been a general thread on the subject of bowdlerized songs. I feel there should be one, and I hope you agree. So....

What have you got?

j
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Old 02-10-2020, 04:43 PM
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Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You" had the lyric "I get no kick from cocaine." When they made a movie of Anything Goes, Porter changed the line to "Some like the perfumes in Spain."

There also was a change in lyrics to remove a reference to Charles Lindbergh, but that's not strictly a bowdlerization -- after the kidnapping, Porter decided it was bad taste to mention him.
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Old 02-10-2020, 04:50 PM
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I'm given to understand that "Let's Get It Started" by the Black-Eyed Peas was originally "Let's Get Retarded."
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Old 02-10-2020, 05:14 PM
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Airplay of "Money for Nothing" also tends to remove the "faggot" verse, which originally took the place of a different F-word.
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Old 02-10-2020, 05:47 PM
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Eddie Money's Shakin' started with the lines

"We started drinkin', wasn't thinkin' too straight
She was doin' 80 and she slammed on the brakes
Got so high we had to pull to the side
Her tits were shakin til the middle of the night"

Which quickly had the last line changed to

"We did some shakin til the middle of the night"

And later on, had the line before it changed to

"Music so loud we had to pull to the side"
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:01 PM
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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap by AC/DC is a fucking awesome downright nasty song. So it should have suited Joan Jett fine, but even she omitted the most evil parts in her cover:

Concrete shoes, cyanide, TNT
Done dirt cheap
Neckties, contracts, high voltage
Done dirt cheap


She also changes "backdoor man" in the line "For a fee, I'm happy to be your backdoor man" for something more harmless I can't quite figure out.
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:05 PM
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I think the bowdlerization of Pass the Dutchie actually makes it a darker-sounding song. I (and many others) assumed a "dutchie" was a joint anyway, but the phrase "how does it feel when you got no food" was still understood as such. So the original was a happy song about getting high with your friends, and the bowdlerized version was supposed to ostensibly be an uplifting song about sharing food, but because that was only half-successful, it sounded like it was saying "sure, I'm starving, but at least I can keep my mind off of it for awhile by lighting up!"
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You" had the lyric "I get no kick from cocaine." When they made a movie of Anything Goes, Porter changed the line to "Some like the perfumes from Spain...
In the 50s and 60s, both Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra onstage would occasionally go back to the “cocaine” line. I’m sure other singers did too, but I’ve heard actual recordings of these two hippie freaks.

By the 70s, I’m sure all nightclub singers were throwing cocaine around.
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:33 PM
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Robyn Adele Anderson has a YouTube channel where she sings cover versions of modern pop songs in an old-fashioned style.

One of the songs she covered was "Basket Case" by Green Day. But she openly said she had a problem with some of the lyrics and changed "lack of sex" to "lack of love" and then changed "I went to a whore" and "I went out to score".
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Old 02-11-2020, 08:54 AM
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In the West Side Story movie, the line is "Pretty, and witty, and gay!". In the play, often performed in schools, it is "Pretty, and witty, and bright!"


But, that's not an example of censorship. The movie moved the scene with the song, and had to change the word being rhymed from "night" to "day". The play has the original text.
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:05 AM
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A minor 1970 hit, Timothy by the Buoys, was the story of three men trapped in a mine long enough to feel a bit peckish. When the rescuers broke through, only two men were there, and Timothy was gone.

The original lyrics in the last verse were,
"Stomach as full as it could be
And nobody ever got around to find him, Timothy."

Many stations played a version that went,
"Both of us fine as we could be
And nobody ever got around to find him, Timothy."
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by BrotherCadfael View Post
In the West Side Story movie, the line is "Pretty, and witty, and gay!". In the play, often performed in schools, it is "Pretty, and witty, and bright!"


But, that's not an example of censorship. The movie moved the scene with the song, and had to change the word being rhymed from "night" to "day". The play has the original text.
They changed many of the lyrics to songs in West Side Story when they adapted the play to a movie, as we discussed here 15 years ago:

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb.../t-336531.html
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:16 AM
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For the US market, the Kinks Lola changed "You drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola" to "cherry cola," probably to avoid paying royalties.

Some radio stations used to beep the B-word in Elton John's The Bitch is Back. Killed the chorus.

Re" West Side Story's Officer Krupkie: Sondhemi wanted to end the song "Fuck You," but the censors gave him a hard time because "stores won't carry the record if it's obscene" (A totally different time). He was agonizing over how he couls end the song when Leonard Bernstein suddenly sang "Gee Officer Krupkie. Krup You!"

Perfect!

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Old 02-11-2020, 09:22 AM
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Back in the day, we had a local classic rock station that played Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" in full. Then they switched to a version that cut out most of the second verse...

Candy came from out on the island,
In the backroom she was everybody's darling,
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head


...and left blank silence over "colored" in the "...and the colored girls go doo doo doo..." parts. At which point you wondered why they were even bothering to play the song.
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
For the US market, the Kinks Lola changed "You drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola" to "cherry cola," probably to avoid paying royalties.
Actually, it was for the UK market. The BBC had a policy against product placement.
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Some radio stations used to beep the B-word in Elton John's The Bitch is Back. Killed the chorus.
Along the same lines, Panic! at the Disco's "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" has a line in the refrain that goes, "Haven't you people ever heard of closing a goddamn door?"

The local station that plays it, bleeps the 'goddamn' throughout, and since it's repeated six times in the course of the song, it really makes a mess of the song.

Note to DC-101: either play the goddamn song as intended, or don't play it at all. You're an alternative/rock station. Your target audience isn't going to be bothered by hearing 'goddamn,' lo, not even unto the sixth time. So cut it out already.
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:46 AM
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Pink Floyd's single from The Final Cut, "Not Now John" had to be made radio-friendly.

John Grant's song "GMF" has a radio-friendly version, where the lyrics are changed to "Greatest Living Creature". Which is especially amusing as it's still called "GMF" which, you know, doesn't stand for "Greatest Living Creature".

I thought the Mike Posner hit "I took a plane to Ibiza" had odd lyrics - until I realised it was a cleaned up "I took a pill in Ibiza".
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:48 AM
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It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I learned that Steve Miller was not singing about the "funky kicks going down in the city".
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:51 AM
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If Bowdlerization includes completely omitting a verse, then our national anthem qualifies.

I hate to sound like Trump here, but many people don't realize that The Star Spangled Banner has four verses. In particular, the third verse is rarely played.

It goes:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It's certainly bellilgerant and vindictive, and almost certainly racist.

During the War of 1812, the British recruited escaped US slaves, promising their freedom in return for military service. As in other wars, black troops fought especially bravely, and Francis Scott Key happened to be a lieutenant with the US forces who faced British troops, including former US slaves, at the Battle of Bladensburg, one of the most ignominious defeats in American military history. The outcome was the US forces running for their lives, and the British forces capturing and temporarily occupying Washington DC, and burning the Capitol and Presidential Mansion (not yet called the White House).

As this occurred just three weeks before he wrote the anthem, there is little doubt that Key held a grudge against the black slaves who had fought for the British. Apologists have tried to argue that by "slaves" he was referring to US merchant sailors impressed into British service, but that makes no sense. Why would he desire hunting down and killing hapless victims of the British?

At any rate, the verse is seldom played, to the point where most Americans are unaware it exists. In fact, Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about a German spy who was exposed because he knew the words to the verse, and any "real American" would not.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:15 AM
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The Rolling Stones had to change the lyric of their song from "Let's spend the night together" to "Let's spend some time together" to get it past the censors on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I've heard censored versions of "You make a dead man come," but I don't remember what the changed lyric was. They might just have left that part out.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:52 AM
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Note to DC-101: either play the goddamn song as intended, or don't play it at all. You're an alternative/rock station. Your target audience isn't going to be bothered by hearing 'goddamn,' lo, not even unto the sixth time. So cut it out already.
More precisely, DC-101 is a Classic Rock radio station owned by iHeart Media, the largest radio company in the U.S., which I've noticed is very skittish about "naughty words". In my local market the Classic Rock station is also owned by iHeart, and on numerous occasions I've heard them remove words from songs like "Who Are You?" by The Who that other stations have been playing uncut for years.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:01 AM
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By the 70s, I’m sure all nightclub singers were throwing cocaine around.
I watched a documentary from 1974 about law enforcement in the American west that used the original lyrics.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:04 AM
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The song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" has the lines, "Life's a piece of s**t / When you look at it"; this is how it is sung at the end of Monty Python's Life of Brian. IIRC, Eric Idle sang the song at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics, with the line intact, although NBC censored it.

The song also appears in the movie As Good As it Gets, but the line was changed to "Life's a counterfeit."
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:05 AM
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Note to DC-101: either play the goddamn song as intended, or don't play it at all. You're an alternative/rock station. Your target audience isn't going to be bothered by hearing 'goddamn,' lo, not even unto the sixth time. So cut it out already.
Their target audience wouldn't be bothered. But the problem is there are people who look for things to get upset over. They would file a complaint with the FCC about how that radio station is broadcasting obscenities over the air where anybody - even children! - might hear them.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:10 AM
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I watched a documentary from 1974 about law enforcement in the American west that used the original lyrics.
Mongo only pawn in game of life.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:12 AM
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"Oh! Susannah" to say the least, but a great song nonetheless.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:13 AM
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The movie Jesus Christ Superstar changed the lyric of What you have doe will be the saving of Isreal to What you have done will be the saving of everyone.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:18 AM
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Which version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" you are most familiar with probably depends on whether you hear it on the radio or not:

"I told you once, you son of a {bitch | gun}, I'm the best there's ever been."
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:33 AM
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If Bowdlerization includes completely omitting a verse, then our national anthem qualifies.

I hate to sound like Trump here, but many people don't realize that The Star Spangled Banner has four verses. In particular, the third verse is rarely played.

It goes:
(snip)
"The Defense of Fort McHenry" is the poem by Francis Scott Key that contains the stanza that became the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner". The poem is not the song. You say the third verse is "rarely" played, but that greatly overstates how often it is actually sung, which is never. I challenge you (or anyone for that matter) to demonstrate a single instance where anything other than the first verse of Key's poem is sung (that is, as if it was a normal part of the song, rather than "what would it sound like if we sang all the verses").

There's also different interpretations of the controversial lines, but I'll leave that alone, since it's irrelevant to the fact that they are not part of the song.

Needless to say, I wouldn't consider the national anthem to have been bowdlerized.

Last edited by Dahnlor; 02-11-2020 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:43 AM
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in the 60s in Substitute the Who changed

I look all white, but my dad was black to

I try walking forward but my feet walk back.

because of "racial tensions " in the USA
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:54 AM
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"The Defense of Fort McHenry" is the poem by Francis Scott Key that contains the stanza that became the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner". The poem is not the song. You say the third verse is "rarely" played, but that greatly overstates how often it is actually sung, which is never. I challenge you (or anyone for that matter) to demonstrate a single instance where anything other than the first verse of Key's poem is sung (that is, as if it was a normal part of the song, rather than "what would it sound like if we sang all the verses").
Wow, I'm exhausted after that five-second google search. Here's one of many:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qog1ivv7yNQ

I'm also one of probably tens of thousands of people who sang it in elementary school as part of our music class.
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Old 02-11-2020, 01:01 PM
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Wow, I'm exhausted after that five-second google search. Here's one of many:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qog1ivv7yNQ

I'm also one of probably tens of thousands of people who sang it in elementary school as part of our music class.
To be honest, I have never heard this version, nor do I remember anything other than the first verse of Key's poem being taught as part of the song. Another previously-undone Google search also presented the entire poem as the lyrics, rather than only the 1st verse, so my assertions about what is and isn't part of the song were clearly incorrect. Ignorance fought.

I would still argue that the Star-Spangled Banner isn't "bowdlerized" in the sense that people are trying to hide the "racist" part, but rather simply shortened for time.
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Old 02-11-2020, 01:37 PM
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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap by AC/DC is a fucking awesome downright nasty song. So it should have suited Joan Jett fine, but even she omitted the most evil parts in her cover:

Concrete shoes, cyanide, TNT
Done dirt cheap
Neckties, contracts, high voltage
Done dirt cheap


She also changes "backdoor man" in the line "For a fee, I'm happy to be your backdoor man" for something more harmless I can't quite figure out.
I can't make out the backdoor man substitution either.

She also inexplicably changed the phone number from "Three six, two four, three six" (A nod to ideal female measurements) to "three sixty four, three five oh."

Weird.
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Old 02-11-2020, 01:49 PM
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The Rolling Stones had to change the lyric of their song from "Let's spend the night together" to "Let's spend some time together" to get it past the censors on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I've heard censored versions of "You make a dead man come," but I don't remember what the changed lyric was. They might just have left that part out.
I remember someone posting in another thread that these past years they do an altered version of Brown Sugar. Quite right too:

Quote:
Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in the market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he's doin' all right
Hear him whip the women just around midnight


I have no idea what they substitute. I also have a memory of a story going round that Brown Sugar = heroin, and that was what the song was really about. I'd like to think (this is just supposition) that the heroin story was a distraction from the real lyric. That would nicely bookend the OP - one song altered so that it wasn't about drugs, and another with a smokescreen suggesting that it was.

j
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Old 02-11-2020, 02:03 PM
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Which version of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" you are most familiar with probably depends on whether you hear it on the radio or not:

"I told you once, you son of a {bitch | gun}, I'm the best there's ever been."
The rock stations I heard it on all played the "son of a bitch" line right from the outset, 1978 or 79? Language standards on radio had loosened up considerably by then. "Bitch" was no longer a big deal.

However, the CDB song Uneasy Rider, with the line "Well I had them all out there steppin' an' a fetchin' like their heads were on fire and their asses was catchin'" had the word "asses" bleeped out.
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Old 02-11-2020, 02:31 PM
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When I was in grade school, I saw a very old music book with some lyrics to "Skip to My Lou", and one verse was

"N*gger in the woodpile, skip to my lou".

The song was originally written in 1844, but the songbook I found was probably from the 1920s.

We never sang the song, fortunately.

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Old 02-11-2020, 03:28 PM
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Some radio stations in the 90s would change a line in Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels"

"let's roll another joint" became "let's hit another joint". The classic rock station in my area used the later while the station that played the hits used the former.
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Old 02-11-2020, 04:37 PM
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I would still argue that the Star-Spangled Banner isn't "bowdlerized" in the sense that people are trying to hide the "racist" part, but rather simply shortened for time.
Well, if you don't buy the racism reason, it's also a matter of record that people dropped the third verse during WWI to avoid offending our British allies.

But since many people have a hard enough time remembering the words to just the first verse, I doubt there's much demand for all four verses.
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Old 02-11-2020, 05:07 PM
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A classic bowdlerized song from the earliest days of rock n' roll is "Work With Me Annie" by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, a song considered so dirty at the time that the FCC tried to get it banned from national airplay (it became highly popular anyway, probably due mostly to the attempt at suppression). It was followed by "Dance With Me Henry", using the same melody but with squeaky-clean lyrics. Georgia Gibbs had a hit with that version.

Maybe in the far distant past, some Americans sang all verses of the Star-Spangled Banner, but I've never heard of any public performances that included more than the first verse.*

*even given a possibly greater tolerance for boredom in the past, I can't imagine a crowd awaiting the start of a baseball game tolerating more than the first verse without rioting.
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Old 02-11-2020, 08:51 PM
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Dean Friedman's Ariel has a version for southern radio that skipped the fact that she was Jewish.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:11 PM
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Everything written by Stephen Foster has been bowdlerized.

And that great old WWII song "Bless 'em All" has been heavily bowdlerized. It is a lot more fun to sing in the original version.
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Old 02-12-2020, 01:56 PM
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More precisely, DC-101 is a Classic Rock radio station owned by iHeart Media, the largest radio company in the U.S., which I've noticed is very skittish about "naughty words". In my local market the Classic Rock station is also owned by iHeart, and on numerous occasions I've heard them remove words from songs like "Who Are You?" by The Who that other stations have been playing uncut for years.
The local iHeart Media pop station in my area censors a line in Rihanna's "S&M" from

Sex in the air, I love the smell of it

to

<silence> in the air, I love the smell of it

which makes the song sound much dirtier than it already is.
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Old 02-12-2020, 11:14 PM
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Baby Shark. Apparently the original song as sung by kids at camp was filled with people getting their body parts chewed off by the sharks.
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  #44  
Old 02-13-2020, 06:55 PM
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If self-bowdlerization counts, then "Forget You"/"Fuck You"/"FU" by CeeLo Green.
  #45  
Old 02-13-2020, 09:03 PM
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Battle of New Orleans was first released by its composer, Jimmy Driftwood. In spite of dicey lyrics, Johnny Horton was out within a week with a sanitized POS that axed "hell", rewrote other words, and deleted more than half the stanzas, instead repeating one over again. Listen to the embarassing Horton version with a brown paper bag over your head.
  #46  
Old 02-14-2020, 11:28 AM
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The Radiohead song Creep had the line "You're so fucking special" replaced by "You're so very special" for the single version.

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  #47  
Old 02-14-2020, 11:37 AM
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According to legend the manager of British Punk Band The Sex Pistols - that'll be Malcolm McLaren - ordered them to write a song called Submission. McLaren intending it to be in gerneral terms controversial but in commerical terms possibly benefical for sales from his clothing shop SEX which specialised in bondage wear. However the band resented being ordered about and wrote the song about a "submarine mission" bowdlerising the whole concept.

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  #48  
Old 02-14-2020, 11:51 AM
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An example of a bowdlerised performance. In 1989 Marc Almond (formerly of Soft Cell) did a duet of "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart" with Gene Pitney. Almond - not only gay but his previous musical history vaguely referenced deviant sex - notes that he was absolutely ORDERED not to look at Pitney when making the promotional video less audiences get the wrong idea and be shocked by two men singing a love song. Almond says it turned out to be his most controversial song - This from a man who recorded a song called Sex Dwarf.

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  #49  
Old 02-14-2020, 12:11 PM
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Louis Prima's popular recorded version of Sheik of Araby changed the background vocals from their stage act. On stage they sing "With no pants on" and "Naked as a jaybird" instead of the recorded "With no turban on" and "Jumpin' as a jaybird".
  #50  
Old 02-14-2020, 02:52 PM
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There's a version of Van Morrison's Brown-Eyed Girl that changes the relatively tame and innocuous "Making love in the green grass/behind the stadium", by clipping a line from a prior verse and turning it into "Laughing and a-running/behind the stadium"

Sirius XM uses the bowdlerized version. Jeez louise, I'm subscribing, I'm a grown up; I can handle the concept of making love in the green grass.
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