FBI investigated song ‘Louie Louie’ for 2 years
An accusation of obscenity against a rock 'n' roll hit.
It was a citizen’s complaint that first called the FBI’s attention to “Louie Louie,” the rock 'n' roll staple that was a hit for The Kingsmen back in 1963.
In a letter of Feb. 7, 1964, addressed to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, an outraged parent (name withheld) exclaims, “My daughter brought home a record of ‘Louie Louie’ and I, after reading that the record had been banned from being played on the air because it was obscene, proceeded to try to decipher the jumble of words. The lyrics are so filthy that I can-not enclose them in this letter.”
So began a two-year investigation by the FBI, which to this day is involved in fighting obscenity. According to the FBI case file, The Kingmen’s record was sent to the FBI Laboratory for analysis to “determine its obscene character,” in part by playing the 45 rpm single at the slower speed of 33 1/3 rpm.
Page 14 of the report shares one listener’s determination of filthy lyrics, which is entertaining but can’t be shared on a nice family blog such as ours. However, the FBI apparently failed to contact Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, who committed the lyrics to tape. Neither did they ever reach Richard Berry, who wrote the original song in 1955.
Slideshow: 25 things that will keep you young
Singing along to “Louie Louie” continues to be a major challenge for any cover band, due in large part to Ely’s slurred performance. The vocalist has explained that he was yelling to be heard over other instruments in the recording session, and also that he was wearing braces at the time, which contributed to his infamously incomprehensible delivery. But when the record was banned by the governor of Indiana on accusations of obscenity, the continued popularity of the song and the band was guaranteed.
The parent’s letter to AG Kennedy rants on: “This land of ours is headed for an extreme state of moral degradation what with this record, the biggest hit movies and the sex and violence exploited on T.V. How can we stamp out this menace????”
Ultimately, the FBI couldn’t determine what the lyrics were, but the agency never charged nor exonerated “Louie Louie” for obscenity. Check the actual song lyrics here, and let us know who really had the dirty mind:
me gotta go.
me gotta go.
A fine little girl, she wait for me;
me catch a ship across the sea.
I sailed the ship all alone;
I never think I’ll make it home
Three nights and days we sailed the sea;
me think of girl constantly.
On the ship, I dream she there;
I smell the rose, in her hair.
Me see Jamaica moon above;
It won’t be long me see me love.
Me take her in my arms and then
I tell her I never leave again.
Tip of the hat to Smithsonian.com for flagging this story.
Photo: Derek K. Miller via Flickr, http://aka.ms/louie
inspire: live a better life
Where in the world do you want to go? Somewhere unique? Any of the places described here are sure to make your next world-travel adventure truly memorable.
It's easy to lead, but it takes courage and conviction to be a truly great leader. Here are 10 inspiring leaders and what we can learn from them.
Some say it’s a small world. We beg to differ. Earth has so many wondrous places worth exploring, and most of us are lucky to see a handful of them. Here are 30 of the top trips of a lifetime.
You'll stave off credit card debt by the end of the year if you account for these often-forgotten expenses.
Mark Zuckerberg has an even bigger effect on your life than you thought.
Take this advice to finally tackle that nagging to-do list.
The iconic storyteller would have been 110-years-old
Take the time to appreciate women’s contributions to society. Here are some of the women who inspire us by their example.
Cast of the iconic TV show reunites for Florence Henderson's birthday
We couldn’t be more excited to watch the best athletes in the world compete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. This year, about 44 percent of the competitors are women according to the International Olympic Committee—which is awesome but wasn’t always the case. Let’s look back at some of the amazing women who paved the way with incredible, memorable feats of girl power.
Still pulling yourself out of holiday credit card debt? Ready to pool some funds for that beach vacation you've been dreaming about at your desk? We're with you 100 percent.
"FOMO, the fear of missing out, is a form of social anxiety," says psychiatrist Gail Saltz. "This type of fear tends to cause compulsive behaviors, like checking out other social situations even as you are in the middle of one currently."