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Parents Music Resource Center

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The PMRC (or Parents Music Resource Center) was a committee formed in 1984 by the wives of several congressmen. They included Tipper Gore[?] (wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore); Susan Baker[?], wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; and Nancy Thurmond[?], wife of Senator Strom Thurmond. Their mission was to educate parents about "alarming trends" in popular music. They claimed that rock music encouraged/glorified violence, drug use, suicide, criminal activity , etc. and sought the censorship and/or rating of music.

Proponents of the PMRC claimed that the change in rock music was attributed to the decay of the nuclear family in America. They said that since there was little stability in the family, children were forced to turn to outside influences, and thus were greatly vulnerable to corruption. As a method of combating these problems, the PMRC suggested labeling records that contained "explicit lyrics or content". They said that it was a method of warning parents of dangerous material before their children listened to it. They pressured the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) into requiring that labels be put on all records containing explicit content. The RIAA resisted their pleas.

Opponents of the PMRC (most notably Frank Zappa and Jello Biafra) said that the problem with record labeling was that it violated First Amendment rights and that there was no one definition for "moral standards". They also argued that many of the supporters of the PMRC were not set only on labeling, but on controlling (or even banning) records with explicit content.

On September 19, 1985, the US Senate Commerce, Technology, and Transportation committee, under pressure from the PMRC, began an investigation into the "pornographic content of rock music". Many famous rock musicians were called as witnesses, including Frank Zappa, Dee Snider[?], and John Denver. Zappa said: "The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design... It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation."

On November 1, 1985, before the hearing even ended, the RIAA agreed to put labels on those records containing what the PMRC saw as explicit content. Many record stores refused to sell albums containing the label, and others limited the sale of those albums to minors. Some politicians attempted to criminalize the sale of explicit records to minors, and others went so far as to try to ban such records. However, the power of the PMRC has greatly declined in recent years, especially with the growing popularity of rap and heavy metal (popular targets of the PMRC). Still, the RIAA encourages the labeling of any album containing explicit lyrics.

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