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National Trauma and Over-reaction (or how to ban a peace song)

9/11 changed so many things for Americans. Airplanes, skyscrapers, immigration, civil rights and security issues were all ratcheted to red alert. Our world suddenly looked different. Favorite pastimes like baseball, movies and malling paled in comparison to the horrors we had witnessed.

But to what extent have we over-reacted?

I’m in the camp of “err on the side over-reaction.” Who cares that a plane flight takes a couple hours longer? I’d rather remove my shoes, be interrogated and frisked, than risk getting on the plane with some bomb-toting wacko. Nevertheless, some of our reactions to that national trauma just seem downright absurd.

Case in point: I was doing some research on one of my favorite 60’s songs, Get Together, by The Youngbloods. It’s a peace song, a mantra for all us aging hippies. So I was floored to learn that Get Together was added to the List of songs deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Huh?! I never knew such a list existed.

It’s really an amazing compilation, indicative of the American psyche at that time. And perusing it you can understand how some of those songs would just feel weird after such a bloody, violent, catastrophic ordeal. Ozzy Osbourne’s Suicide Solution, AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells , Blue Oyster Cult’s Burnin’ for You and Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ understandably connote some of the horrific imagery of that day. Other songs are more marginal, like Peter, Paul and Mary’s Leaving on a Jet Plane, The Rolling Stones’ Ruby Tuesday, and Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. Then there were the downright puzzling selections like Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, Jackson Browne’s Doctor My Eyes and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

I would add Get Together as evidence of over-reaction.

Love is but the song we sing,
And fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Know the dove is on the wing
And you need not know why

C’mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev’rybody get together
Try and love one another right now

Some will come and some will go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moments sunlight
Fading in the grass


If you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

I just can’t understand what makes this song “inappropriate”. Is it the mention of “love and fear”? Is it the reference that “Some will come and some will go” and that “We are but a moments sunlight, Fading in the grass”? Perhaps these are the very things we needed to hear after September 11. I mean, what about “Ev’rybody get together, Try and love one another right now” is not applicable?

It’s entirely possible that hot button issues of illegal immigration, civil rights, pluralism, multi-culturalism, and religious freedom have become inordinately hyper-sensitized, tweaked by the trauma of that day. No doubt, some of our fears are legit. But if this song is any indication, I can’t help but feel that, in some ways, we’ve over-reacted.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Nicole April 14, 2008, 4:00 PM

    Those lyrics actually mean so much more now to me than they did then because I wasn’t a Christian then. Loved the Youngbloods.

    Also, I’m with you as far as logistics. This is an evil world, and some things must change to accomodate the post 911 awareness.

    Makes you wonder just what Clear Channel found “inappropriate”?

  • Mark H. April 14, 2008, 11:35 PM

    Maybe it depends on the context. When was the list generated? Was it ever abandoned? I can see why all of these songs would have been inappropriate for play, say, the day after 9/11. I don’t imagine anyone would have wanted to hear “What a Wonderful World” the next day.

  • Mike Duran April 15, 2008, 11:42 AM

    Mark, in the days following the attacks, a lot of tv and radio stations changed their normal programming. (Remember the fiasco about the preempted soaps?) Clear Channel begrudgingly admitted the existence of this list of “inappropriate songs,” but stressed that it was not a ban, just a suggestion. It’s obviously no longer applicable, but at the time it generated much controversy and, I think, serves to illustrate our over-reaction to 9/11.

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