Radio era only–I’m not talking about bawdy Shakesperean-era songs. I’m thinking of Billboard Top 40 stuff. What was the first one with a swear word in it? And since most likely the first one had something tame, like “ass” or “damn,” what was the first one with one of the Carlin seven? Have all of Carlin’s seven been featured in at least one Top 40 hit at this point?
First one to come to mind is ‘Bitch’, by Meredith Brooks. I remember thinking ‘You can say that on the radio?!’ And apparantly you could!
As far as ‘ass’ or ‘damn’, um…much longer before that, I am sure.
“Who Are You” dropped the f-bomb in 1978, and it sometimes ran uncensored on the radio until a few years ago.
Don’t know if it was ever on the radio, but there was a song called “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead” based on the altered quote by Admiral Farragut. I imagine this might have played in WWII, but no idea if it was a hit. And no, it’s not the Tom Petty album either.
Could be Pink Floyd’s “Money,” a chart hit in 1973, but of course usually heard with the second syllable of “bullshit” snipped. Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” got away with “crap” the same year; I don’t recall hearing it censored on my local radio stations. Some claim that a muttered “fucking hell” can be heard in the background of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” just before the “na na na” section starts.
Meredith Brooks? From 1997?
Johny Cash…“A Boy named Sue”…even the “45” had the word BITCH bleeped.1969
Wikipedia says 30 songs were banned in 1955 but doesn’t give any more information (At lest no more information in that paragraph.)
Most of these are much too late. The Jefferson Airplane’s We Can Be Together included the lines “In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fuck hide and deal” and “Up against the wall, motherfucker.” It was released as the B-Side of a single with “Volunteers” in September 1969.* On the album “Volunteers,” released in November 1969, “Eskimo Blue Day” included the word “shit” several times.
*The obscenities were replaced by the word “fred” on the lyric sheets.
ETA: While not top-40, “Volunteers” charted as number 65 as a single and 16 as an album.
The OP asked for Top 40 hits.
I dropped in to name Volunteers as well. It may not have actually made the Billboard top 40, but it certainly seems to me me to have been “top 40 stuff”. More interesting to me at least was the fact that the few times I heard it on the radio back then, the word “motherfucker” was never bleeped or otherwise censored. Nobody seemed to notice it was there.
Yeah, see my post. However, it’s a bit of a technical distinction since *Volunteers/We Can Be Together * were certainly hits and got significant airplay.
Kingston Trio’s “Greenback Dollar” from 1963 (composed and originally recorded by Hoyt Axton) contains the repeated line in the chorus “I don’t give a damn about a greenback dollar”. When the Kingston Trio has done reunion concerts on PBS, they have claimed this made the tune controversial.
There were a lot of rumors that The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie” contained obscene lyrics, but a congressional investigation determined that the vocals were too garbled to reveal anything objectionable.
Would’ve guessed Highway to Hell.
If you count “you sure like to ball” then Little Richard had it in *Good Golly Miss Molly * in 1958 (reaching #4), and for good measure, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels also hit #4 with it in 1969.
Rock critic Dave Marsh claimed that one of the Kingsmen muttered “fuck” during the instrumental portion of their 1963 recording of *Louie Louie * (which hit #2), but it’s off-mic and unintelligible. Of all the claims that LL was obscene in one way or another, that particular point isn’t mentioned.
Having been released in 1973, and it being one of the highest selling albums in history, and with the individual track having been in the Top 20, **and **it being the totally unambiguous, undeniable curse-word “bullshit” my vote would have to be for the above mentioned ***Money ***off Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
Which by the way almost never used to get censored until Janet Jackson flashed her Borg-infested chocolate titty!
This is not an answer to the OP, because it wasn’t a radio hit, but for sheer, jaw-on-the-floor “She said WHAT?” and "That record came out WHEN???"ness, check out this recording from 1935.
WARNING: NSFW!!! (unless you have headphones on)
“Shave 'em Dry” - Lucille Bogan
Not top 40, but for what it is worth Al Stewart’s second album, Love Chronicles from 1969, is usually credited with using “fucking” for the first time in a commercial release.
I think that’s a question of when and where you listened. I recall radio stations censoring it back in the late 1980s. But these stations still played “Who Are You”. And in the mid 1990s, I recall one of these stations playing the Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” with no censoring whatsoever outside of safe harbor hours. It wasn’t a hit, but when a song clearly includes the line “Why can’t I get just one fuck?” it tends to be notable.
The Fish Cheer by Country Joe McDonald (hint: he’s not saying “fish”) was featured on the Woodstock soundtrack, which hit #1 on the album charts, but it didn’t get much airplay.