Classic rock music is a beloved genre that has produced some of the most iconic songs of all time. However, while the music may be timeless, some of the lyrics have not aged well. In particular, many classic rock songs are filled with sexist and misogynistic themes that are uncomfortable and offensive to listen to in today’s society. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at 5 classic rock songs that are now sexist, and examine why they are problematic in today’s cultural landscape.
The Beatles – ‘I Saw Her Standing There’
The classic rock song “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles contains a problematic lyric where Paul McCartney sings about a 17-year-old girl, saying “She was just 17, if you know what I mean.” The song was released when McCartney was 20 years old, and while it’s not the only classic rock song that sexualizes teenage girls, it’s one of the most well-known examples. One could argue that McCartney is singing from the perspective of a teenager, but the song would likely have been more appropriate in the hands of a teenage idol from the 1960s.
The Police – ‘Every Breath You Take’
As per American Songwriter, Sting intended The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” to be a gloomy song about watchfulness, fixation, and power. But, many people misread the song as a soothing love song, and the fault might not be entirely theirs. The beat of “Every Breath You Take” is so captivating that it creates the impression of a relaxing love song. One could argue that it is an example of irony, but to what purpose? Regrettably, this song might end up glorifying all the wrong things.
Cat Stevens – ‘Wild World’
Cat Stevens’ song “Wild World” is not overtly chauvinistic or violent, but rather condescending and patronizing towards his ex-girlfriend. He implies that she cannot handle the dangers of the world on her own, and continually stresses that he views her as a child. While it may not be as obviously offensive as other songs, it still perpetuates negative attitudes towards women and does not promote equality.
Tom Jones – ‘She’s a Lady’
Tom Jones’ track “She’s a Lady” can be considered sexist, regardless of whether it is categorized as a rock song. The song highlights Jones’ boastful attitude that he does not abuse his lady, as if it’s a good thing to be rewarded for. Jones’ lyrics insinuate that his lady is capable of taking whatever he throws at her and that she “knows her place.” Despite the track’s enjoyable melody, the lyrics are cringe-worthy and cause discomfort. Interestingly, Paul Anka, a pop star, wrote the track. However, in his book “My Way: An Autobiography,” Anka declared the song to be his worst work due to its chauvinistic lyrics.
The Rolling Stones – ‘Under My Thumb’
The Rolling Stones have not always been known for writing songs with feminist themes. However, their track “Under My Thumb” takes things to another level. The song features Mick Jagger boasting about breaking his girlfriend’s spirit, making her subservient to him, and even likening her to an animal. It’s hard to ignore the problematic lyrics when listening to the catchy marimba riff that the song is known for.