Louie Louie and Benton Harbor, MI

May 5, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Can't Make This Up, Current Affairs, Music 

Paula Dawning, the Superintendent of Schools in Benton Harbor, MI, has banned the McCord Middle School marching band from playing Louie Louie this weekend in the town’s Grand Floral Parade.  (AP Story via Yahoo)

Apparently, she’s concerned about the “raunchy lyrics”.  As far as I know, NOBODY knows what the lyrics to the song are.  However, the ability to play it must be a human instinct – I’ve never seen a marching band use any sheet music yet all marching bands are able to play it instantly with or without a conductor.

I sent the following letter to Ms. Dawning urging her to reconsider:

Dear Ms. Dawning,

I read a news story today stating that you had banned the McCord Middle
School band from playing the song “Louie Louie”.  I would urge you
to reconsider.

At age 36, I fondly remember my years playing music in school.  I
strongly believe that my musical experiences, in addition to being fun,
were a major part of the foundation that was built for my future
success.  I played in the school’s band and jazz band, and
ultimately was a member of the NJ All-State Band and All-State
Orchestra.  I went on to be a member of the Rutgers University
Marching Band and Pep Band.

Music is important in many ways to a student.  It builds
confidence through public performance.  It builds character
through the discipline required to practice and learn your
instrument.  It builds the ability to work smoothly in
groups.  Evidence shows that music builds mathematical ability as

And “Louie Louie” is an important tradition in marching bands.  I
have never been a member of a marching band where that song was not
played.  I have never met anyone who belonged to a marching band
that did not play that song.  In fact, “Louie Louie” seems to be
more of a natural instinct – I have never seen any sheet music for it
but I’ve also never seen a band that didn’t know how to play it –
nearly flawlessly on the first try.  If you leave a marching band
alone long enough, it will spontaneously play “Louie Louie”.

I feel that I must address the question of the lyrics.  While I’ve
never met a band that didn’t know “Louie Louie”, I’ve also never met
ANYONE who knows the lyrics.  In the 1960’s, the FBI investigated
the allegedly obscene lyrics and concluded that they were not obscene,
and in fact were “unintelligible at any speed”.  I have seen many,
many Internet websites purporting to have the lyrics – and no claimant
has any better claim than any other.  The song has just never been

I hope that you will reconsider your decision, and allow the band to play “Louie Louie” this weekend.


Mark Smith

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UPDATE: (5/6/05) – The superintendent has relented.  After hearing from a majority of parents (and not just the single complainer), she has decided to let them play Louie Louie in the parade.

And I got a nice note from the band director in response to my e-mail above, which I had forwarded to him.

Supreme Court Justice Restricts Media

April 8, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs 

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia forced two reporters to blank their tapes of his speech before a high school, and later had two reporters ejected from a reception held at William Carey College after stating that they would be allowed. (CNN Story)

As you can see in the article, Justice Scalia has also gone so far as to restrict the presence of reporters at a ceremony where he was given an award for supporting free speech!

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