Follow-up on the Michigan marching band story

Earlier this month, there was quite a bit of buzz regarding the story of the marching band in Michigan that was not allowed to play LOUIE LOUIE. On May 5th, a day normally associated with Mexico’s Cinco deMayo festivities, the website was bombarded with traffic, thanks in part to what happened in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

As the story goes, the McCord Middle School Marching Band was was scheduled to play at the Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival in Benton Harbor, Michigan on Saturday, May 7th. Superintendent Paula Dawning ordered the band not to perform LOUIE LOUIE, due to it’s supposedly raunchy lyrics. The fact that this would be an instrumental version of the song was considered irrelevent.

When this story broke out, there was a lot of attention given to LOUIE LOUIE, and the fact that folks were still banning the song, some 40 years after the FBI investigated it for potentially obscene lyrics. Apparently, after the story broke, bringing more unexpected attention to the school district, Superintendent Dawning had a change of heart, and allowed the band to perform the song at the Saturday parade.

I asked Superintendent Paula Dawning to comment on her decision, and here’s what she wrote:

There are so many people who thought I did not investigate this matter but my real concern is about parental influence. Here is a piece I am sending to the local newspaper that supports the point I was making. You may use this on your website.

The recent “Louie Louie” controversy generated much discussion and news media coverage regarding song lyrics, to the extent that the most important point may have been obscured. The key issue was the role of parents in education and the right of parents to set standards for their children. The erosion of parental authority has been and continues to be a concern. We must guard the right of parents to set standards for their children and insist they meet their responsibility to be involved in the education of their children.

Similar recent incidents in neighboring school districts reinforce the point, though they did not generate as much news coverage. Parents in the Niles Community Schools questioned the use of the Maya Angelo book, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, because of its content. Parents of middle school children of the St. Joseph Public Schools objected to the “Forty Assets” survey, which was to be completed by all Berrien County students, because it explicitly addressed sexual content. It seems reasonable that parents of children in the Benton Harbor Area Schools should have the same rights and responsibilities to determine to what their children are exposed.

This all started because one parent questioned the appropriateness of that particular song for middle school students. The school district does not want to define values for our students. This is the domain of parents and when they spoke we listened. The situation began when we listened to a single parent and ended with us listening to a majority of the McCord Renaissance Middle School band parents. We believe this is the right way to proceed.

So there we have it, a comment on this story, direct from the source.

If’ you’d like to read more about this little news story, here’s a couple links you can try:

Detroit Free Press- LOUIE LOUIE added back to the marching band’s playlist.

WDNU-16 of South Bend, Indianna- similar story on return of song to band playlist

An Orlando Sentinel story, recycled by
Like a stripper at a PTA meeting, “Louie Louie” just can’t shake its bad reputation.
After four decades, it’s still the dirty little song that isn’t. Like a lot of rock songs, it’s not bad – just misunderstood.….

An overview of the marching band story, as reported by

Would you like to see the video of the Blossomtime Festival Parade? Here’s a link that will allow you to order a copy.

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