Fears of the White Unconscious: Music, Race,
in the Censorship of "Cop Killer"
By Barry Shank
from RHR 66, Fall 1996
On June 11, 1992,
the Dallas Police Association and the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas called
a press conference to announce the beginning of a campaign to force Warner Brothers
Records to remove a song entitled "Cop Killer" from one of their current
releases by the heavy metal band, Body Count. Within a week, the Texan groups had received
the support of police organizations in California and New York. The governor of the state
of Alabama, Guy Hunt, asked all record stores in his state to stop selling Body Count's
album. The Vice President of the country, Dan Quayle, termed the song "obscene."
Sixty members of Congress signed a letter addressed to Warner Brothers calling the
recording "despicable" and "vile." Within two weeks, the California
State Attorney General had sent a letter to record store chains operating in California,
requesting that they no longer stock the recording. Over 1,500 stores across the country
had already pulled the album from their shelves and refused to sell it. Within a month of
the initial press conference, President George Bush publicly denounced any record company
that would release such a product. At a Time Warner shareholder's meeting on July 16,
actor Charlton Heston stood up, read the lyrics to two songs from the album and demanded
that the nation's largest media corporation take some action. Then, on July 28, Ice-T, the
leader of the band, Body Count, called a press conference to announce that he personally
was removing the song, "Cop Killer," from all future copies of the album.
In less than two months, a protest against a pop
song begun by a 1,000 member organization of police officers had forced one of the world's
largest and most successful corporations not only to pull one of their still profitable
products from the marketplace, but to go back on several carefully worded public
statements supporting artistic freedom and freedom of speech. Finally, on January 27,
1993, Warner Bros. released both Ice-T (solo) and Body Count from their recording
contracts, citing "creative differences."
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