Classic Rock

You Gotta Stop Singing Along These Classic Rock Songs About Little Girls

todayMarch 13, 2024 5

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Remember belting out those classic rock anthems with your friends? Turns out, some of those beloved lyrics might make you cringe today. Societal norms around age gaps and relationships with minors have evolved significantly since the golden age of rock and roll. Back then, a song like “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles, about a guy smitten with a 17-year-old, wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

But through a modern lens, these lyrics can be unsettling. Elvis Presley famously met his wife Priscilla when she was just 14, a relationship considered controversial even then. Yet, his career wasn’t derailed. Songs like Kiss’ “Christine Sixteen”, with its focus on a much older narrator lusting after a school girl, even reached the Billboard charts despite radio bans.

Get ready for a trip down memory lane – one that might make you question your favorite singalongs. We’ll explore some of the most voyeuristic and age-inappropriate lyrics that somehow found mainstream success. Were you unknowingly singing along to a creepy classic?

10. The Rolling Stones – “Brown Sugar” (1971)

The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” might be a classic rock anthem, but its lyrics are a tangled mess of historical ignorance and objectification. Released in 1971, the opening track of Sticky Fingers details a sexually suggestive encounter while referencing “brown sugar”, a term once used for enslaved people, particularly women.

Lines like  “Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good / Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should” are not only insensitive but blur the lines between desire and exploitation.

The song’s troubling references to slavery and underage attraction have led to criticism and even bans on radio play in recent years. While some might view “Brown Sugar” as a product of its time, it reinforces racist stereotypes and fails to acknowledge the horrific history behind the term.

9. Johnny Burnette / Ringo Starr – “You’re Sixteen” (1960/1973)

The upbeat melody of “You’re Sixteen” might mask a deeper issue. Written by the Sherman Brothers, the song became a hit for both Johnny Burnette in 1960 and Ringo Starr in 1973.  However, the lyrics celebrate a teenage girl’s physical appearance in a way that can be uncomfortable.

Lines like “Peaches and cream / Lips like strawberry wine” reduce the girl to a collection of physical attributes. The song then goes a step further with the line “You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine,” implying ownership and control over a young woman.

While “You’re Sixteen” might be a nostalgic favorite, its lyrics objectify young girls and perpetuate unhealthy power dynamics in relationships.

8. Gary Puckett & The Union Gap – “Young Girl” (1968)

Gary Puckett & The Union Gap’s “Young Girl” holds a complex place in music history. Released in 1968, the song tells the story of a man realizing the girl he’s attracted to is underage. While some argue the lyrics advocate for a moral stance against predatory behavior, others find them unsettling.

Lines like “With all the charms of a woman / You’ve kept the secret of your youth” place the blame on the girl for her appearance, and the song doesn’t delve into the potential power imbalance at play.

While the song might be interpreted as a cautionary tale, it doesn’t fully address the complexities of statutory rape.

7. Neil Sedaka – “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” (1961)

Neil Sedaka’s 1961 hit, “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”, might seem like a harmless celebration of a girl’s coming-of-age. However, a closer look at the lyrics reveals an undercurrent of possessiveness. The narrator, who previously had a more sibling-like relationship with the girl, seems to be marking her 16th birthday as a turning point.

Lines like “Tonight’s the night I’ve waited for / Because you’re not a baby anymore” can be interpreted as the singer viewing her newfound maturity through a romantic lens.

This shift in perspective can be uncomfortable. The song positions the girl’s maturity as an invitation for a romantic relationship, rather than celebrating her personal growth. While “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” might be a nostalgic tune, it’s important to be mindful of lyrics that can be interpreted as possessive or controlling.

6. Neil Diamond – “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” (1967)

Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” might be a familiar tune, but its lyrics haven’t aged well. The song positions a young girl on the cusp of womanhood and suggests she’ll “need a man” soon.

Lines like “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon / Please come take my hand”  reduce her to a potential romantic partner for the narrator, instead of celebrating her own individuality and growth. This focus on a young girl’s future romantic prospects is problematic. It implies her worth is tied to finding a man, rather than her own potential.

5. The Knack – “My Sharona” (1979)

The Knack’s “My Sharona”  is a classic rock anthem, but a closer look at the lyrics reveals a questionable undercurrent. While the song was inspired by frontman Doug Fieger’s real-life relationship with a 17-year-old girl named Sharona Alperin, the lyrics reference a desire for “the touch of the younger kind.” 

Lines like “Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind  / I always get it up, for the touch of the younger kind”  can be interpreted as an admission of an unhealthy fixation on underaged partners.

Even if inspired by a real romance, the song’s glorying of a relationship with an age gap trivializes the power imbalance inherent in such situations. Next time “My Sharona” comes on, consider the message it perpetuates –  is it really just a love song, or something more?

4. The Ides of March – “Vehicle” (1970)

The Ides of March’s “Vehicle” might have a nostalgic feel, but its lyrics raise a red flag. The song describes a situation where the narrator, a “friendly stranger” in a car, offers candy and pictures to a young girl.

Lines like “Hey well I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan won’t you hop inside my car” paint a picture of potential danger, masked by promises of a fun adventure.

This song goes beyond a simple teenage crush. The narrator positions himself as a potential predator, using seemingly harmless charms to lure a young girl. “Vehicle” might be a catchy tune, but next time it comes on, consider the message behind the music.

3. KISS – “Christine Sixteen” (1977)

Kiss’s “Christine Sixteen” is undeniably catchy, but its lyrics are stuck in a time warp. Written by Gene Simmons, the song details an unhealthy obsession with a teenage girl. The narrator, a grown man, fixates on Christine’s age (“Christine sixteen, Christine sixteen”) and hints at her innocence (“She’s been around, but she’s young and clean”).

This age gap and predatory behavior were controversial even in 1977, and the song’s presence on classic rock radio stations today normalizes an unhealthy power dynamic.  Maybe it’s time to relegate “Christine Sixteen” to the back of the playlist in favor of songs that celebrate healthy relationships.

2. John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson – “Good Morning Little School Girl” (1937)

The classic blues song “Good Morning Little School Girl” might be familiar, but its lyrics are undeniably creepy. Recorded in 1937 by John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, it’s a standard covered by blues legends like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.

The opening line directly addresses a young school girl, asking to come home with her. The narrator then attempts to seem harmless by claiming to be a “little schoolboy too,” but this only adds to the discomforting nature of the lyrics. While this song may be a historical blues staple, its content raises the question of how such lyrics ever gained mainstream popularity.

1. The Rolling Stones – “Stray Cat Blues” (1968)

Yep, it’s the Stones again. The legendary band’s “Stray Cat Blues” might be a catchy tune, but behind the riff lies a dark story. Inspired by the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”, the song’s narrator fixates on a young girl, blatantly disregarding her age. 

Lines like “I can see that you’re fifteen years old / No I don’t want your ID” make it clear this encounter is inappropriate and exploitative. But, this song isn’t just about a missed ID check. 

The lyrics “It’s no hanging matter / It’s no capital crime” downplay the seriousness of the situation. This mindset, where a young girl is seen as easy prey, is a problem we still grapple with today. Next time “Stray Cat Blues” comes on, maybe it’s time to hit pause and reflect on the lyrics we sing along to.

Written by: Best Classic Bands Staff

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