James Hillis

Black Day in July:The Banning of Gordon Lightfoot

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2014 at 7:18 am

Since the dawn of the 20th Century music has become a symbol of protest and has in some cases gotten an artist or two a banishment from the airwaves due to the sensitive nature of a song or their political views.  Garth brooks was once banned from Country Music TV because of his song “The Thunder Rolls”,Back in 1967, the Beatles were banned from British radio not once, but twice! Both “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life” from their  ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ album were forbidden airplay, as they were thought to encourage drug use. Both Billie Holiday and Cole Porter were banned by ABC Radio Stations during the early 50’s, Tom Petty, the Sex Pistols and Frankie goes to Hollywood are just some artists that have had some form of Censorship against them.

But Gordon Lightfoot? What could he have possible done to have been banned from radio?. On April 4th 1968 his song”Black Day in July” was banned from airplay by most major radio stations in the United States. The song itself is about the race riots in Detroit in 1967 and was deemed as too controversial for public consumption.


At the above link you can find out what Gordon thought about it, but as for the song itself it portrayed the riots in a way that allowed the regular listener to understand. The result was 43 dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed and Lightfoot made sure that the record made those facts clear,                                                                                                                    “Inthe office of the President
The deed is done the troops are sent
There’s really not much choice you see
It looks to us like anarchy
And then the tanks go rolling in
To patch things up as best they can
There is no time to hesitate
The speech is made the dues can wait

Black day in July
Black day in July
The streets of Motor City now are quiet and serene
But the shapes of gutted buildings
Strike terror to the heart
And you say how did it happen
And you say how did it start
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”

Tough lyrics and but realistic and as such was the reason for his banning from the airwaves, in 1973 David Bowie would release a song called “Panic in Detroit” but by then the aftermath of the riots had been studied and talked about by scholars everywhere and Bowie’s song did not touch a nerve like Canada’s own Gordon Lightfoot.

  1. […] song writers do.  He wrote the song “Black Day In July”  Predictably, a number of radio stations banned it. Ah, the […]

  2. […] Another series of race riots occurred in the summer of 1967, again arising out of frustrations from a de facto system of prejudice. Newark (NJ), Detroit (MI), and Asbury Park (NJ) were among places that erupted in Watts-type riots. In Detroit, “The result was 43 dead, 467 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed….” In Newark, 20 died, and there was more than $10 million in property damage. (Farber, George Lipsiz, “Youth Culture and Social Crises”, p. 220; https://cooperstreetrelic.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/black-day-in-julythe-banning-of-gordon-lightfoot/) […]

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