I see that Dire Straits’ song Money for Nothing has been banned from the radio in Canada because of use of the word “faggot”.
The song tells a story from the point of view of a jealous and ignorant man and uses the sort of language that comes with that mental territory.
The writer creates a character and then sings that character in the first person. I’ve found this can lead to serious misunderstandings by listeners used to thinking that all songs using the word “I” are about the writer. Largely this is because they hear little but “me/I” songs about luuurve and relationships on mass media.
Knopfler has doubts about the device:
”I’m still in two minds as to whether it’s a good idea to write songs that aren’t in the first person, to take on other characters. The singer in ‘Money for Nothing’ is a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality – somebody who sees everything in financial terms. I mean, this guy has a grudging respect for rock stars. He sees it in terms of, well, that’s not working and yet the guys rich: that’s a good scam.”
I’ve used this technique throughout my writing life.
Wheels, for instance, is about the consequences of Thatcherite thinking on a father who educates his son to be a winner at all costs. This leads to his son’s death in a car chase challenge. It’s pure fiction to make a social point, but a couple of times I’ve had people come to me at gigs to express their horror at the death of my son in a car crash.
How these same people could listen to my other songs and think that the character I had created in Wheels was actually speaking my opinions amazes me!
Wheels is just one of many songs where I’ve used this technique to tell a story, and in the end a writer must trust his audience to be astute enough to get the message and separate reality from fiction.