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Lightfoot song Black Day in July banned in the U.S.A.

The Story

"Black day in July / Motor city madness has touched the countryside," begins Lightfoot's Black Day In July, a song dealing with the 1967 race riots in Detroit. In this CBC Radio clip, an indignant Lightfoot explains why top-40 radio stations in the U.S. have banned the song. "A lot of them don't want to upset their listeners. It's the housewife in the morning, let's give her something that'll make her happy, why give her something that'll make her think?"

Medium: Radio
Program: Metronome
Broadcast Date: April 13, 1968
Guest(s): Gordon Lightfoot
Reporter: Alan Millar
Duration: 5:12

Did You know?

• Radio stations in 30 states banned Black Day In July. The song was on Lightfoot's 1968 album Did She Mention My Name.
• The song's lyrics say:
Why can't we all be brothers?
Why can't we live in peace?
But the hands of the have-nots keep falling out of reach

• The 1967 Detroit riots were set off by a police raid of an inner-city bar. A small crowd made up of both blacks and whites gathered outside to protest but it erupted into violence. Businesses were looted and set on fire. The riots quickly expanded to encompass a 36-square-kilometre perimeter of Detroit's inner-city neighbourhoods. The National Guard was brought in. The rioting eventually ended five days later.

• The riots left 43 dead, 467 injured, 7,231 arrested and 2,509 stores looted or burned. A month after the riot, a city report on the riots said 388 families were displaced and 412 buildings were burned beyond recognition. City officials pegged the cost of damages from the arson and looting at between $40 and 80 million US.

• King was shot dead April 4, 1968, while on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., where he was to lead a march of sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions. In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize. He turned over the $54,123 prize to the further the civil rights movement.
• After King's murder, his wife Coretta Scott-King took her husband's place in the march. She later lobbied against the Vietnam War and founded Atlanta's King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She died in January 2006, at age 78.

• Also in 1968, an El Paso, Texas radio station banned Bob Dylan's songs because staffers couldn't understand the folk singer's lyrics. And in September, Chicago radio stations wouldn't play the Rolling Stones song Street Fightin' Man out of fear that it would lead to violence during the National Democratic Convention. The single set all-time sales records during the ban.

• In the 2003 album Beautiful - A tribute to Gordon Lightfoot a collection of Lightfoot's songs re-recorded by Canadian artists, the Tragically Hip chose Black Day in July The Hip's bassist Gord Sinclair told Billboard magazine that the song was "an easy choice." "When I was a fourth-year student at Queen's University [in Kingston, Ont.] in 1984, I did a term paper based on that song," Sinclair said.



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