Where is Elvis when you need him?

(By J. S. Smith)

     My parents grew up listening to and adoring Elvis Presley and the Beatles while their parents pounded on the walls and wondered what to do about the former’s swiveling hips and the latter’s mop-top hair cuts.

     When we look back now on the birth of Rock-n-Roll in the fifties and sixties, we grin that our grandparents were so prudish as to find fault with "Hound Dog" or "Penny Lane." Of course, that is because we view postwar society through the prism of our own experience, even with popular music.

     I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s when disco ascended, died and was quietly resurrected under an assumed name, Pop. Country wasn’t so cool with us then, mainly because it spoke to an older audience, more familiar with drinkin’ and divorcin’. My friends listened to Culture Club (you remember Boy George, don’t you Elvis haters?), Michael Jackson (more than swiveling hips) and Madonna (Elvis would have passed out seeing her if he weren’t already dead by then). I had a passing fancy with these "artists" before taking up a love of the classic rock of the 1970s (how does something get to be "classic" in 10 years?).

     Popular music in the 1950s was not benign, no matter how tame it may seem by today’s weakened standards. It subtly encouraged sexual exploration and openly promoted lasciviousness and lust (Gal. 5:19). Our grandparents were right to be concerned about the Elvis effect.

     Music in the sixties took an even more wicked turn, as radicalism became fashionable. The sweet ditties the Beatles made at firstI Want to Hold Your Hand, for example—were replaced in the middle of the decade by Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds, harmless titles with dangerous undertones of drug abuse and fornication.

     Popular Music in the seventies went brain dead, perhaps it was all the drugs of the sixties. Still we had songs like Afternoon Delight, an ode to adultery. Country music shifted dramatically as well. Gone were the days of Gene Autrey and Hank Williams, Sr. Now we had songs like If Lovin’ You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want to Be Right. And soon Hank Williams, Jr. would hit the scene.

     The eighties gave us an obscene song called Relax and a very tolerant opinion of teenage fornication and alcohol use. Drugs were no longer cool, at least in the lyrics. Teenage pregnancy rose while drug use plummeted—any connection? Heavy metal grew in popularity—Twisted Sister hit the charts.

     But the nineties returned drugs to respectability. Heavy Metal and gangsta rap music are now the most popular forms of music. Much of rap music centers around street life in ghettos and slums where drug use is glorified, fornication is mandated and woman are degraded and dehumanized. Today’s Heavy Metal music lauds self-destruction; one band is called Suicidal Tendencies. Another, Marilyn Manson, (named for the starlet and the psychotic) has been banned in many localities for its obscene lyrics and wicked stage antics.

     The frightening thing about all this is that we are no longer the children, but the parents, charged with training them up in the way they should go, the way of the Lord (Prov. 22:6 and Eph. 6:4). Although my daughter is still a decade away from this temptation (and who knows what will be popular then, Glen Miller, Jr. I hope), I worry about the teenagers right now who blare this stuff on their oversized car speakers and discreetly imbibe it at home on their headphones while their parents remain oblivious to the plague in their own houses. Where is the courage of Joshua to stand at the door step and assert that this house will serve the Lord (Josh. 22:15)?

     An Associated Press article dated July 29, 1997 was entitled, "Heavy Metal makes killer mice, teen finds." A young Virginia boy named David Merrell acquired 72 male lab mice, a stopwatch and a maze to go along with some compact disks for an experiment. He then divided the mice into three groups of twenty-four mice each. One group was labeled the control group, another the hard rock group and the third the classical music group. For the first week of the experiment, the mice were given measured feedings and regular periods of light and darkness. It was during this period that he timed the mice as they navigated the maze and came up with a base time of ten minutes.

     As per the experiment, for ten hours each day the hard rock group and the classical music group were exposed to their respective music. The control group did not receive any exposure to music. He then would time each group thrice a week as they negotiated the maze.

     He took into account that the mice would get quicker naturally as they grew more familiar with the maze. The control group reduced its time by five minutes. The classical music group reduced its by a remarkable eight and one half minutes. But the heavy metal group lost some twenty minutes because they would not sniff the air to find the trails of the other mice. An unexpected side effect occurred: the heavy metal mice began to fight and kill one another. The experiment had to be stopped, due to a lack of subjects for the heavy metal group.

     Throughout the centuries, music has been used to inspire and communicate ideals. It is no different today; the ideals have just changed. No longer are we concerned about Johnny marching home again safe from war; now popular music admonishes Johnny to obtain illegal drugs and sexual conquests. Music does have an impact and an influence—as Christians, we must believe this or our song service to God loses its purpose, to both praise Him and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). No Christian should ever argue or accept the contention that music has no influence.

     Media wags are recommending that parents be certain they know what their children are watching on television. But are not their musical tastes at least as important? What CDs do your children buy and listen to? What is in the stereo right now? What do the lyrics say and what do they mean? No, most children are not ignorant sponges, taking in and obeying every message they hear. But even the noblest of filters is bound to accept a little filth at a time and eventually become corrupted. A little leaven will leaven the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6).

     The proverbs encourage a man to give attention to the words of God and "Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life" (4:23). The center of thought and emotion in a man is so precious and singular that he should do everything he can to preserve it, not subject it to unnecessary trial (Prov. 16:3). Music that inspires a revolution against law and morality will eventually clog the arteries of righteous thought. Songs that encourage drug abuse and fornication just may succeed one day in converting your child to their "gospel."

     Even good kids, if exposed repeatedly to filthy messages like these, can be turned to the devil. "Evil communications corrupt good manners," Paul tells us (1 Cor. 15:33). Obscenity like this does not belong in the home of a Christian (Titus 2:4-5).

     And parents, you must set the example and not violate it hypocritically, binding tough rules, but breaking them yourselves (Matt. 23:3-4). Why should the child turn off Last Dance With Mary Jane so you can pop in It Was Just The Tequila Talking?

     Given the extent to which popular music has descended into vulgarity and violence, one must wonder nowadays, where is Elvis when you need him?

     Editor's note:  J. S. Smith is a young preacher of the gospel who has conviction, as seen in this good article.   The only comment I would add is Evil Presley and others did play a part in the obvious trash called music today.  They are the forerunners who shocked society with their then bold lyrics that have degenerated into the gutter language often heard today.