memories of the ’80s – heavy metal and suicide

Rock ‘n’ roll went on trial in the 1980s, when several artists were taken to court, accused of having influence over listeners with their lyrics and encouraging them to consider suicide.

Written in memory of the death of AC/DC drummer Bon Scott, the song Suicide Solution by Ozzy Osbourne was held up to the spotlight when Osbourne was taken to court in 1986.

The parents of John McCollum sued Osbourne, saying the lyrics of his song encouraged their son to take his life. Lawyers argued that the lyrics were clear instructions to do the deed, while Osbourne and his lyricist/bass player Bob Daisely said the lyrics were not saying “Get the gun and shoot” but “Get the flaps out”, a Brit slang for female genitalia.

In 1985, two Nevada teens, after a night of drinking and taking drugs, took their party to a local playground and ended up shooting themselves. Raymond Belknap died, and James Vance survived, dying three years later.

The families went to court in 1990, accusing the band Judas Priest of having a hand in their sons deaths, saying the two had been listening to their Stained Class album which had affected the young men enough to take their lives.

For six weeks the band endured constant questions and speculation over their album and the lives of the boys. At the end, like in the case against Osbourne, the judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence, and the case was dismissed.

These two incidents highlighted the hysteria surrounding the music and the belief that there had to be a negativity and evil found within heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll.

But in the end rock n roll and heavy metal wasn’t to blame – no matter what naysayers had proclaimed.


About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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