Lady Bird and the Tramp
My immediate response to hearing that Lady Bird Johnson died was to remember a story that went around in Austin in the early 1980s. At that point, she still owned the radio station KLBJ.
It is said that one day she was listening when a disc jockey played the song "Too Young to Date" by a local band called D-Day, released on a single in 1979.
The band was New Wave. But most of all it was sophomoric:
Got an older guy and his name is Michael,
he just told me 'bout my menstrual cycle.
Said the blood on his fingers wasn't from a cut!
maybe someday I'll be a teenage slut!
Says he doesn't really want to marry,
he just wants to pop my cherry!
Lady Bird was not delighted. The story goes that she got on the phone right away and asked that it never be played on KLBJ again, and that it never was. This was taken as an example of our music being crushed by the forces of genteel power, or something like that.
Listening to the song online now, I'm perhaps slightly more sympathetic to Lady Bird than I once was. Getting banned from the radio is as close to interesting as it ever got. X Ray Spex the band sure ain't.
And the excerpt about Lady Bird that Rick Perlstein has posted from his first book is a reminder that she put her Southern belle powers to good use. Please have a look.
The freedom to broadcast cheaply and meaninglessly (but profitably) "offensive" speech can coexist very comfortably indeed with a situation in which our rulers need feel no obligation towards anything higher than expedience construed in the narrowest terms and within the smallest horizon of time. Funny how that works. The benefits of brutal candor over genteel reservation are not perhaps as obvious as it once seemed. We need a revaluation of all values.
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