Does Rock Music make you violent? Do rock groupsand stars promote violence in young people? Throughout history humans have been attractedto music – either for emotional or religious reasons, or just forpleasure. Music can be used to express ourselves,to tell a story or to let others into our thoughts. However, from the 1990s references have oftenbeen made to link violence and deviant behaviour to specific types of music,particularly, heavy metal, rock and rap music.
The issue around questionable moral and behaviouralaspects of music and its influence on the young began with the birth of popularmusic in the 1950s. Elvis Presleyintroduced young, white people to rock and roll music, the origins of which camefrom Rhythm and Blues (RnB) which was more commonly associated with African Americans. Elvis Presley was known for his suggestivemovements on stage involving hip twists. The older generations found this to be shocking and unacceptable andpotentially harmful and claimed it would damage the moral development of theyoung.
Steps were made to try and ban hismusic, particularly on television programmes.Similar steps have been taken in more recent timesregarding questionable behaviours by rock musicians. Rock star Marilyn Manson on stagebehaviour and lyrics were blamed in America for the Columbine High schoolshooting that happened on the 20th April 1999. They blamed him for this event because the lyrics in one of hissongs were telling people to kill. The two boys responsible were listening tohim before they went out and shot 13people dead. Manson received a lot of abuse for these murders.
The boys listened to his music because ofwhat he sang about and to get hyped up to go and commit this horrendous crime. Marilyn Manson changed his surname to Mansonafter the serial killer and cult leader Charles Manson. It could be suggested that Manson promotesviolence because he took the name from a serial killer specially to appeal to ayoung following. He took thename of a serial killer and became famous for it.
Yet is thisnot all just theatre?One reason rock music is said to promote violence isthe lyrics. A lot of rock stars use explicit language and singabout suicide, drugs and sex. Thislanguage is often used to shock people and increase publicity. It is used todeliberately can cause offence and to create a reaction from lots of peoplethat do not like to hear this type of language. An example of these lyrics is “Who says date rape isn’t fun, …
the housewife I will beat,and I slit my teenage wrist,” It is claimed that for the youngor vulnerable in society these lyrics could also encourage them to hurtthemselves or others. By listening to these songs with destructivethemes, they may be more likely to imitate this bad behaviour celebrated bytheir idols. For example, ateenager in Fort Worth, Texas, Jay Fieldon Howell, stabbed a fourteen-year-oldgirl in the neck killing her. He was a huge fan of rock singer Marilyn Manson,who is known for having violent and satanic themes in most of his music,so many people claimed that listening to this had caused Howell’s violentbehaviour.A second reason is the type of people that sing rockmusic and how violent they can be – smashing and trashing guitars, lights andeven hotel rooms.
Aerosmith reportedly used to bring a chainsaw on tour, sothey could use it on hotel room furniture, and extension cords so they coulddrop TVs into swimming pools, just like you see in the movies. There arenumerous examples in the last few decades of rock bands behaving in this way. This type of behaviour could be seen topromote violence because they are smashing guitars off the ground for no reasonand fans, often quite young, are seeing this and may do it themselves thinkingthis is reasonable and appropriate behaviour. However surely most people see this as pure theatre andpublicity seeking?Most people recognize theatre and publicity stuntsand would agree that rock music does not promote violence. At the end of the day it is just entertainmentand it can be an effective way of processing anger. A study by the University of Queensland in Australiaconcluded that listening to extreme music makes you calmer, not angrier.
The study found that when experiencing anger,extreme music fans liked to listen to music that could match their anger. Thiscan help them process their anger and help them calm down.This is also supported by studies that have shown that the youth crime rate hasdecreased massively since 1994 even though ever more people are listening tothis type of music. If rock music was causing youth violence, the crime rateshould surely be increasing not decreasing? It is not fair to say rock music ispromoting violence as fans are drawn to this type of music because theyidentify with the lyrics.
People blamerock music for everything bad in the world and when something terrible happenslike a school shooting they blame rock music because it is an easy target. Infact, the reasons are far more complex and can involve breakdowns inrelationships, personal problems such as childhood trauma or financial issues.Ido not think rock music promotes violence because it is just a song and peopleshould know the difference between songs and real life. People who choose tolisten to this music normally listen to it because they identify with it anduse it as a coping mechanism or an escape.
Also, ifrock music did promote violence then the youth crime rate would have increasedbut in fact it has decreased. Ithink the issue could be that teens who already have problems with negativebehaviours are drawn to music with negative themes, rather than the other wayaround.