Disk jockeys changing playlists out of sensitivity to terrorist attacks

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Disk jockeys are changing the lineup and dropping songs they feel are inappropriate given the anguish the country is feeling over last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, radio stations have chosen not to play songs whose titles or lyrical content could touch raw nerves in the national psyche.

Tina Spears, music director for the FM station KNBA, said she took Radiohead's ''Knives Out'' and the Foo Fighters' ''Learn to Fly'' off the station's playlist.

''I don't think it's a censorship issue,'' she said. ''I'm just trying to find songs that are more suitable emotionally.''

At alternative-rock FM station KZND, disk jockey Cliffie Johnson said he chose not to play the Cure's ''Killing an Arab'' on his show last Friday.

''I thought it was not the best song to play,'' he said.

Mark Murphy, who oversees program directors at the six Clear Channel radio stations in Anchorage, said on Sept. 11, he and local Clear Channel station directors agreed not to play certain songs, including Van Halen's ''Jump,'' AC/DC's ''TNT,'' and Bruce Springsteen's ''I'm on Fire.''

''When tragedy happens, you try to be as sensitive as possible,'' he said.

County music stations also are taking a close look at their lineup. Jim O'Brien, program director for FM Clear station KASH, said he's not playing the Dixie Chicks' ''Cowboy Take Me Away,'' which includes the lyric, ''I want to look at the horizon, and not see a building standing tall.''

The demand for patriotic songs is taking up the slack. At KASH, O'Brien said he would have almost never played Lee Greenwood's ''God Bless the USA.'' Now, he said, ''We've played that between seven and eight times a day since last Tuesday.''

According to the radio tracking service Mediabase 24/7, ''God Bless the USA'' was last week's top-played song nationwide.

Versions of ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' by Faith Hill, Whitney Houston and Jimi Hendrix are being requested at record rates, Anchorage radio station program directors say. In addition, various montages, which intermix patriotic songs with news radio clips and sound bites of President Bush's speeches, are a big hit.

The informal ban on potentially offensive songs won't last forever, program directors say. But for the near future, listeners can expect patriotism to rule the airwaves.

''We're not never going to play those songs again,'' Murphy said, ''but especially when you have these wonderful montage songs ... people just aren't going to miss them.''

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