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Offensive derogatory song lyrics tweaked over the years

A few days ago Lizzo had to change the lyrics of her new song. But she is not the first artiste to have done so

Mathures Paul Published 20.06.22, 12:18 AM

Grrrls by Lizzo

Original lyrics: Hold my bag, b***h / Hold my bag / Do you see this sh*t? /I’mma spaz / I’m about to knock somebody out


Updated lyrics: Hold my bag/ Do you see this sh*t? Hold me back

Grammy-winning artiste Lizzo, who is considered a champion of inclusivity, has changed a lyric on her new song within days of it release after being criticised for having a word considered derogatory towards people with disabilities. “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. This is the result of me listening and taking action,” she said. The change comes soon after disability advocate Hannah Diviney put forward her thoughts on Twitter, saying “spaz” is a slur derived from spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that involves muscle stiffness.

Money For Nothing by Dire Straits

Original lyrics: See the little fa***t with the earring and the make-up?/ Yeah buddy, that’s his own hair/ That little fa***t got his own jet airplane/ That little fa***t, he’s a millionaire

Updated lyrics: See that little queenie with the earring and the make-up … That little boy got his own jet airplane/ That little boy, he’s a millionaire

The classic 1985 song was written from the perspective of a working-class man who is watching rock stars on video clips on the television while Mark Knopfler sang it in third person, who resents the degree of fame and fortune lavished on rock stars. The song passed most censor tests in 1985 to become an iconic song though there were objections now and then, making the group perform the slightly modified lyrics during concerts. In 2011, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council deemed it unfit for radio play. Knopfler never tried to justify the original lyrics.

Picture to Burn by Taylor Swift

Original lyrics: So go and tell your friends that I’m obsessive and crazy/ That’s fine, I’ll tell mine you’re gay, by the way

Updated lyrics: That’s fine, you won’t mind if I say, by the way

Some considered a part of the lyrics of Taylor’s 2008 song to be homophobic. It’s a song about a high-school ex and the word “gay” appears in sort of a takedown. In a 2011 interview with MTV she addressed the change: “Now, the way that I would say that and the way that I would feel that kind of pain is a lot different. I look back on the record I made when I was 16, and I’m so happy I made it. I got to immortalise those emotions that when you’re so angry, you hate everything. It’s like recording your diary over the years, and that’s a gift.”

Let’s Get It Started by Black Eyed Peas

Original title: Let’s Get It Retarded

Updated title: Let’s Get It Started

In 2004, after John Edwards wrapped up his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Black Eyed Peas was on stage to keep the party going with Let’s Get it Started. The year before the song had appeared on the album Elephunk as Let’s Get Retarded. The question remains, why did the group even use the word “retarded” in the first place?

They Don’t Care About Us by Michael Jackson

Original lyrics: Jew me, sue me, everybody do me/ Kick me, kike me, don’t you black or white me

Updated lyrics: Do me, sue me/ Everybody, do me/ Kick me, strike me/ Don’t you black or white me

Michael Jackson apologised for the lyrics and even rerecorded it a few days after two million copies of the album HIStory had been shipped (on most streaming services the words “Jew” and “kike” are drowned out). The singer had said: “The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading. The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the black man, I am the white man. I am not the one who was attacking. It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them. I am angry and outraged that I could be so misinterpreted.”

Lola by The Kinks

Original lyrics: I met her in a club down in old Soho/ Where you drink Champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola.

Updated lyrics: I met her in a club down in old Soho/ Where you drink Champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola.

It sounds like a weird change but in 1970, product placement in songs was frowned upon, especially by the BBC, and many thought there were risque allusions in the song. Given that radio play was very important for a song’s success, the band decided to go the “cherry cola” way during live gigs.

Arabian Nights from Aladdin OST (1992)

Original lyrics: Oh, I come from a land/ From a faraway place/ Where the caravan camels roam/ Where they cut off your ear/ If they don’t like your face/ It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.

Updated lyrics: Oh, I come from a land/ From a faraway place/ Where the caravan camels roam/Where it’s flat and immense/ And the heat is intense/ It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.

The new lyrics were seen on the home video format of the movie which was released in 1993 and also in subsequent theatrical releases. The change is obvious and was done after Arab-Americans complained that the lyrics were racist. In case you are interested, in the original version of the Three Little Pigs (1933), the Big Bad Wolf tried to get into the pigs’ house by disguising as a peddler with a heavy Jewish accent. The dialogue was subsequently rerecorded.

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