Racism is an unfortunately well-known phenomenon throughout music, with organisations such as Love Music Hate Racism uniting to fight the institutionalised racism in music that continues today, with a recent example being Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” music video, where she dresses as a caricature of a black woman, and she’s depressingly not alone in cotinuing to perpetrate racial stereotypes.
1) Steven Patrick Morrissey
Morrissey has hardly been free of controversies since his career started, his most recent being calling the Norwegians “cannibals” for not agreeing to have a vegetarian only menu for his gig. The English singer/songwriter has been accused of racism many times over the course of his career. In his 1992 performance at the Madness Madstock! Reunion concert in London, he wrapped himself with a Union Jack flag, and chose to have two female skinheads as the backdrop of his performance. Later, in 2010, Morrissey again became the centre of racism accusations after he described the Chinese as a “sub-species” because of the animal cruelty in China.
2) David Bowie
Throughout his career, David Bowie has reinvented himself, but one instance in particular created a great deal of controversy. The “Thin White Duke” character from 1976, a self-described “emotionless Aryan superman” that Bowie developed for his Station to Station album. Around this time, Bowie made several pro-fascist comments during interviews, including praises of nationalism and Adolf Hitler, culminating in a famous photograph of Bowie allegedly giving a Nazi salute. In later years, Bowie would blame his actions during this time on his heavy drug use and commitment to the “Thin White Duke” persona.
3) Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton was part of a generation of British musicians who were heavily inspired by American blues, which would suggest that the musician himself would have nothing but respect for the African American community. However, some comments he made in 1976 seem to contradict his love of African American culture. During a concert, Clapton voiced his support for anti-immigration politician Enoch Powell, going to so far as to use racial slurs and shout “Get the foreigners out,” “I used to be into dope; now I’m into racism,” and “Keep Britain white!” Clapton would defend his comments by saying they were intended to be funny. Despite this, he’s never retracted or regretted his support for Powell.
4) Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is another musician who is not unfamiliar to controversy, but this particular example is less well-heard of. In the past she has apologized for participating in a controversial group photo by pulling at the corner of her eyes to make them slanted, commonly associated with mocking Asians. She has also said that she wanted to make music that sounded “black” and that she liked “hood music” but wasn’t “a white Nicki Minaj.”
Harlem-born Moby is famous for such works as ‘Raining Again’ and ‘Feeling so real,’ but reportedly prejudiced views shed a new light on the DJ. The electronic music DJ angered many people with a Tweet about a Jay-Z and Kanye West lyric, in which he implied that adding more black women in the MoMA would turn the museum into “the new hood.”
6) Joe Jonas
Although he’s less well-known than fellow ex-Disney star Miley Cyrus, he was also caught making racist images. In 2009, he was also caught making slanted eyes in a picture that was leaked.
The female rapper has denied posting Tweets in 2012 that said, “Sometimes I wish slavery was still goin’ on” and “I don’t need black fans anyway. Y’all don’t buy albums.” Kreayshawn later said her Twitter was hacked and sent out the both extremely offensive and clearly half-hearted apology the following morning, “I am sorry, I LOVE FRIED CHICKEN!”
8) Mike Reid
DJ Mike Reid recently made the UKIP supporting calypso song. Featuring such lyrics as “With the EU we must be on our mettle/Want to change our lawnmowers and our kettles.” He also made several comments which were clearly anti-immigration, such as ‘Leaders committed a cardinal sin, open the borders let them all come in, illegal immigrants in every town, stand up and be counted Blair and Brown.’ This was all done in a fake Caribbean accent. Since this happened Mike Reid has apologised, claiming that he meant no offense with the song, and has removed the calypso from sale.
9) Brad Paisley
Country singer Brad Paisley, favouring the electric guitar as his preferred instrument caused controversy in America with his single “Accidental Racist,” off his newest album, Wheelhouse, which begins with Paisley thinking about telling his Starbucks barista that really, the T-shirt he’s wearing with the stars and bars of the Confederate battle flag just means he’s a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, “caught between southern pride and southern blame.” By the end, LL Cool J has been dragged in to rap a reconciliation as treacly as Paisley’s melody: “If you don’t judge my do-rag / I won’t judge your red flag / if you don’t judge my gold chains / I’ll forget the iron chains.” These lyrics were widely criticized for its clumsy way of dealing with the tense racial issues going on within America.
10) Courtney Love
Courtney was made to do a live broadcast in 2002 which was to last for 24 hours on end, and was put in full control of the programme itself. The entire event itself was an unmitigated disaster, and during the sixteenth hour of the ordeal Courtney told a story about walking into the studio and asking a black man to get her a root beer. That man turned out to be Jay-Z. This already suggested to many that she was a prejudiced person, but this was further suggested when in 2010 during a Hole gig at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. At one point during the show, Courtney brought a fan up on stage and asked her, “Do you really like rock music? Because you’re African-American. That would be like me being into Lil Wayne.”