1970 September 15

VP Spiro Agnew: Rock Music Destroying America’s Youth!


Vice President Spiro Agnew charged on this day that American youth were being destroyed by rock music, the drug culture, and underground newspapers. Moralists and political conservatives had been attacking and attempting to censor rock and roll since the 1950s (see Eric Nuzum’s book, below). And before that, in the 1920s and 1930s, jazz was seen as an equally corrupting influence on American youth.

As Vice President, Agnew was most famous for his vitriolic attacks on critics of President Richard Nixon’s Vietnam War policy. One of his most famous attacks was a speech, on November 13, 1969, attacking the news media as “impudent snobs” for what the administration saw as their bias on the issue of the Vietnam War. Agnew was implicated in a corruption scandal and resigned as Vice President in October 1973.

The idea that rock and roll would corrupt the morals of America’s youth had a long history. The years 1954–55 were the high point of moralistic public reaction to this new thing called “rock and roll.” For some of the censorship events, see September 24, 1954; March 28, 1955; May 22, 1955; and August 21, 1955.

Read: Richard Cohen and Jules Witcover, A Heartbeat Away: The Investigation and Resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (1974)

Hear Vice President Agnew attack Hippies (“shut up and work”): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1qakxLSfRk

Learn more: Eric Nuzum, Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America (2001)

Learn more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

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