As soon as rock music appeared in the 1950s, it was labeled by conservative folks as loud. Offensive. Obnoxious. And with the development of hard rock, punk and heavy metal, the “harsh” adjectives just continued to pile up. Indecent. Disturbing. Even violent. Well let’s face it – you’re not going to walk away from a punk or metal concert (standing in the pit!) without some cuts and bruises. And the lyrics generally aren’t about cats and daffodils. But blaming music and lyrics for horrific events such as rape, murder and suicide? Seems a bit much, as there is rarely enough evidence to support the claims and there are always other factors involved. Yet whether it’s the media looking for a scapegoat, a deranged criminal trying to avoid a life sentence, or the family of a troubled teenager searching for answers, rock and metal has historically received the blame for a variety of tragic, violent events. From Slayer to Judas Priest, The Beatles to Black Flag, they’ve all had fingers pointed at them for suicides, murders and other acts of unspeakable violence, often leading to lawsuits and drawn-out court trials. Here’s a list of 10 rock bands that were scapegoated for such and took the blame despite their innocence.
Charles Manson predicted that a race war between blacks and whites would trigger an apocalypse, a scenario that he dubbed “Helter Skelter.” He took the name from The Beatles song off of The White Album, which he believed confirmed his notions – but the song was in fact about an English amusement park slide. Manson’s appeal of his conviction (for the Tate/LaBianca killings) pointed blame at The Beatles’ song. He is still in jail for his heinous crimes.
In the early 1980s, Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski appeared on the Rona Barrett talk show to debate the topic of punk violence. At this point, punk rock was breaking big in LA, fueled in part by footage of riots outside of punk shows where suburban, mohawked kids battled with cops. Punk was blamed for encouraging a violent, anti-establishment culture, but Dukowski and other punks argued that the authority was just afraid of something they didn’t understand and the only “violence” at shows was being committed by the notoriously heavy-handed LAPD.