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Classic rock songs are awesome … except when they’re not! Here’s a look at five classic rock songs with highly offensive lyrics. To keep this list relevant, it only mentions hits or tunes from hit albums. Notably, the only Beatles track on the list was directly inspired by an Elvis Presley song.

The Beatles, writers of dozens of hit classic rock songs, looking through a window
The Beatles | Icon and Image / Contributor

5. The Beatles’ ‘Run for Your Life’

In “Baby, Let’s Play House,” Elvis Presley sang, “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” That’s creepy and possessive. At least it’s only a small part of the song.

According to the book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, John Lennon built The Beatles’ “Run for Your Life” around Elvis’ terrible line. John admitted he wasn’t a big fan of the song — although George Harrison inexplicably liked it.

4. Ringo Starr’s ‘You’re Sixteen’

Early rock ‘n’ roll singer Johnny Burnette released a song called “You’re Sixteen” when he was 26. Ringo Starr covered “You’re Sixteen” at 33. That’s even worse!

Even if Ringo’s song wasn’t about a minor, it would still be trash. Ringo was never the best singer, and he’s barely trying here. The faux-kazoo solo is insulting to the eardrums. In a more just world, this would have stayed an album track. Instead, it was a No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. What was America thinking?

3. The Police’s ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” is a song about a teacher-student relationship that understands that such a relationship is immoral — but for the wrong reasons. In “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” Sting seems to think teachers shouldn’t prey on their students because … it could cause administrative trouble? It’s not clear if the tune is concerned with victims at all.

Part of me wants to give “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” the benefit of the doubt, saying it’s not condoning the behavior depicted, especially considering how ominous the verses are. But the chorus is a little too peppy for the song’s own good, and Sting and company dance around in the video like this is all fun and games.

2. Don Henley’s ‘Dirty Laundry’

On the surface, “Dirty Laundry” might seem like an innocuous song about tabloids. According to The Week, paramedics were summoned to Don Henley’s home in 1980. There, they found a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old. The latter was naked at the time, and she was charged with prostitution.

Texas Monthly reports this incident inspired Henley to write “Dirty Laundry.” The subtext is that journalists are the real bad guys here for writing about the story.


A Pundit Used Ringo Starr’s ‘You’re Sixteen’ to Defend Roy Moore

1. The Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’

Brown Sugar” might be the most offensive No. 1 single ever. It’s a song about plantation rape that tries to be a fun sing-a-long. This is a subject The Rolling Stones should never have broached, and the execution makes it even worse. No, I’m not linking to it.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.