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Heavy Metal's Lyrics Are Taken Seriously by Most

May 14, 1988

" 'Heavy Metal Teen Shoots Self to Death,' cried the headline in the New York Post. Once again, folks, rock 'n' roll is back in the hot seat," writes Patrick Goldstein in last Sunday's "Pop Eye" column in The Times' Calendar section.

"According to official estimates, nearly 6,000 teen-agers commit suicide each year," Goldstein writes. "But the focus is on one teen who committed suicide while carrying an Ozzy Osbourne tape with the song, 'Suicide Solution.'

"The shock waves from this latest suicide controversy also hit a New Jersey college campus. Two days after (17-year-old Walter) Kuolkusky's death (on April 25), a Seton Hall University faculty adviser banned heavy metal from WSOU-FM, the student-run college radio station."

Here are some responses to this week's hot topic: "Do you believe song lyrics can have a negative effect on the listener?"

"Even if your conscious mind is not aware of the lyrics, your subconscious mind is aware, and the negative lyrics will have a negative influence on you."

--Becky Williams, 15,

sophomore, Bethel Baptist

"Yes, because if they're devil-worshipping lyrics, they can put people in a killing mood. If they're rowdy lyrics, they can put people in a head-banging mood. But if they're mellow lyrics, they can put people in a good mood."

--Jeff Golden, 16,

sophomore, Corona del Mar

"Music can heighten or change the mood you're in, so it can have an effect both ways."

--Jim Hsu, 17,

senior, Corona del Mar

"No, that's hogwash. It's just music."

--Dru Brislen, 17,

junior, Dana Hills

"Yes. If a person listens to a downbeat song repeatedly, he may become sad or depressed." --Suzy Sullivan, 16,

junior, Dana Hills

"They might spread ideas, but they're not going to revolutionize trains of thought."

--Amy Watt, 17,

junior, Dana Hills

"If people worship the singer and the entire attitude of the song, yes, they'll take the lyrics seriously. It will affect them. Most people just listen to the music, though."

--Denise Fulton, 15,

sophomore, Foothill

"Music can also have a positive effect. Look at Christian rock, it's really uplifting."

--Jeanette Reed, 17,

junior, Foothill

"It depends on the moods and emotional states of the listeners when they hear the songs."

--Doug Silver, 17,

junior, Foothill

"Yes, some of the songs that I hear on the radio lead kids to believe what the lyrics state. Some songs bring across pornographic messages, foul language or the disbelief in religion. Some rock songs played backwards lead students to believe that 'Satan is sweet.' Such songs should be banned from the radio waves."

--Content Mullen, 16

junior, Garden Grove

"Usually the only buyers of the suggestive material are people who already use drugs, explicit language, etc. The lyrics can also expose innocent people. Yet, it is the innocent person's choice to buy such material."

--Lesley Markle, 16,

junior, Garden Grove

"Musical lyrics can have a negative effect upon the listener, but most of these types of music have inaudible lyrics. Because my parents have a strong influence in my life, I have a hard time listening to most of the popular music."

--Jennie Vassar, 15,

sophomore, Garden Grove

"Song lyrics can have negative effects on the listener. If a song says illegal practices are fine, some might agree. People look up to those who are famous, and if they project bad ideas, others might just go along with them."

--Kendra Minke, 17,

senior, Laguna Hills

"If the listener takes the lyrics literally, then they could have a negative effect on him. Some musicians write their lyrics to enforce or promote a certain image. As long as the listener takes the music for what it is and doesn't confuse the message of the song with what is the right or wrong thing to do, then the lyrics shouldn't affect the listener. Unfortunately, some people who really look up to the musicians take the songs literally and accept them as truths."

--Katrina Heppler, 17

senior, Laguna Hills

"There are different types of people, those who are strong in their moral beliefs and those who are weak. Those who are weak are more likely to be negatively affected by song lyrics. They usually have a low self-esteem or low self-worth, and being involved in that type of music raises them to a higher level, or so they believe."

--Kristin Price, 17

senior, Laguna Hills

"Anyone who gets so involved in the lyrics that they live the words will be harmed by the lyrics."

--Kelly Black, 18,

senior, Lutheran

"Music has an effect on all types of people, whether good or bad. There are some people who just listen to the music and have fun, yet there are others who take the words too seriously."

--Kathleen Loomis, 17,

junior, Lutheran

"Some people are easily affected by song lyrics, movies and things they read. Others are not. Each of us is essentially a sponge. Our subconsciousness takes in everything we encounter, whether we are consciously affected by it or not."

--Jennifer Knigge, 16,

junior, Lutheran

"It can have a negative effect for people who take music seriously. I think heavy metal is the most negative type."

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