Skip to content

The 15 Most Controversial Songs of All-Time

In the mid-’80s, a big-haired then-Senator’s wife named Tipper Gore was taking a stroll near her 11-year-old daughter’s room. Without warning, she caught an earful of her tween’s tape deck (or turntable), as someone sang about “masturbating with a magazine” and how “…my body will never be the same.”

Sex talk.

Tipper was gobsmacked at the reference to pleasurable coitus seeping its way into her place of residence without her approbation. She would not take this lying down: Instead she and three other women formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) in 1985, which would establish guidelines for regulating music deemed sexual, violent, or all-around uncouth, slapping warning labels on anything that fit the bill. Among the starting “Filthy Fifteen” were Cyndi Lauper’s allegedly shameless and vile “She Bop” and Madonna’s supposed smut-fest “Dress You Up”, but No. 1, with a bullet, was Prince’s singularly pornographic fantasy “Darling Nikki.”

The best part of the story is that warning labels actually helped sell more records — it certainly didn’t hurt Minneapolis’ finest, as “Nikki” parent album Purple Rain would end up going 13x platinum. So, no matter how you feel about censorship, at least take a moment to pose inappropriately and raise a glass of liquid meth to Mrs. Gore for pointing consumers in the direction of mellifluous debauchery.

Have a look at this list to check out the great company Prince keeps in the history of banned songs — as proud a legacy as any His Purpleness leaves behind.

Chuck Berry, “My Ding-a-Ling” (1972)

Peter, Paul and Mary, “Puff, the Magic Dragon” (1963)

N.W.A., “F**k tha Police” (1988)

Madonna, “Papa Don’t Preach” (1986)

Michael Jackson, “They Don’t Care About Us” (1995)

Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines” (2013)

The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie” (1963)

Ozzy Osbourne, “Suicide Solution” (1980)

Loretta Lynn, “The Pill” (1975)

Eminem, “Stan” (2000)

The Cure, “Killing an Arab” (1979)

Randy Newman, “Short People” (1977)

Bruce Springsteen, “American Skin (41Shots)” (2000)

Nirvana, “Rape Me” (1993)