Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: Musicians Who Made the FBI Nervous

FBI_agent,_1939Insane Clown Posse and the Juggalos are not the first band to make the FBI’s radar. Far from it.  The G-Men have been cracking the case of the Evil Music That Will Destroy the World for at least a half century.

The Feds weren’t always wrong. There have been some pretty bad guys on stage over the years, but there have also been a lot of silly, spiteful investigations—especially during the Hoover years.

Did Public Enemy make the list? You’ll have to read and see, but these public enemies certainly did:

John Lennon: Lennon’s might be the most famous FBI file in history. It’s certainly one of the few that has it’s own movie, 2006’s The US vs. John Lennon. So what had the FBI so wound up? His anti-war work, of course. Just listen to that Commie corrupting our kids!

Frank Sinatra: The Chairman of the Board was long rumored to have mob ties, not to mention he hung out with JFK and his son was kidnapped. I think I’d be more concerned if the FBI didn’t have a file on him.

The Kingsmen:  BBC News has this to say about one of the weirdest cases in the FBI files:

The early rock and roll song “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen, for instance, was the subject of a 119-page file. The lyrics, written in a quasi-Caribbean metre, are famously difficult to discern.

Some, including an official at a Florida high school and Indiana Governor Matthew Welsh, suspected the words were secretly obscene, and the FBI launched an investigation.

“The laboratory is requested to determine if enclosed record Louie Louie can be considered obscene for purposes of prosecution,” an agent wrote in the file.

Jimi Hendrix: In 1969 Hendrix was busted in Canada on a drug charge, and the Canadian police requested assistance from the FBI. They complied, and there you go: Hendrix had an FBI file.

Max Roach: According to  Jazz Times the drummer was hassled about his involvement with the civil rights movement. Those damned civil rights, always getting in the way of things.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard: Check out this New York Daily News article for the contents of Ol’ Dirty’s file. Wu Tang, bitch!

Robin Gibb: Here’s another weird one. Apparently in the midst of both divorce and drug addiction, Bee Gee Robin Gibb wanted to have his estranged wife murdered. Maybe she thought she wasn’t getting too much heaven. The Daily Mail has the story.

Leonard Bernstein. What, are you kidding me? The Los Angeles Times reports that the great Leonard Bernstein was investigated as a Communist. I guess that isn’t really a huge surprise—wasn’t everybody a potential Commie back then?

Michael Jackson: Yeah, I think we all called that one. Read this LA Weekly article if you really want more.

The list doesn’t stop there: Pete Seeger, Cat Stevens, Mama Cass Elliott, Liberace, and Jim Morrison all had FBI files. Grace Slick was friends with Nixon’s daughter and once visited the White House. Surely she has a file, as must Willie Nelson, who lit up a fatty on the roof of the White House while visiting Jimmy Carter.

Maybe it would’ve been faster to make a playlist of musicians who weren’t on the FBI’s radar.

1 reply »

  1. A quick Google search seems to reveal that many of the jazz greats of the 40’s and 50’s caught the attention of the FBI. I can’t think of any other artists off the top of my head that had their belongings carried out in white Bankers boxes.


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