Billy Paul Part Five
I think it’s time for Billy Paul Part Five, and I know you been waiting for it for awhile. I don’t forget those who I like.
Jesse Jackson controversy
Billy Paul was twice embroiled in controversy over the content of his songs withReverend Jesse Jackson.
When Love is New followed in the same vein as its predecessor and had a similarfate. Released in December 1975, it reached # 139 on the Billboard Pop Album chartand # 17 on the Soul chart. It included the singles “Let‘s Make a Baby“ which hit# 83 on the Pop singles chart (the last record of Paul‘s to make that chart), # 18on the Soul chart, and # 30 in the UK and “People Power“ which reached # 82 on theSoul chart and # 14 on the U.S. Dance chart.
Come on, come on, let‘s make a baby
Oh, baby, come on, come on
Let‘s bring another life into this world
A little boy, a little girl
Take my hand while we walk slowly to the room
Can’t you see tonight I‘m gon na make sweet, sweet love to you?
… Let‘s put wisdom in his head
So he‘ll never look back, he‘ll look straight ahead
We‘ll teach him the truth and understand the meaning of it allSo he can walkaround with his head held tall
– Billy Paul, “Let‘s Make a Baby“
“ Let‘s Make a Baby“ proved controversial and there were calls to ban or alter the track because of its supposed obscene or negative message. Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH led the movement against this song and others such as Hall &Oates‘s “Rich Girl“ and the Four Tops‘ “Catfish“. The campaign was waged locally with individual stations making their own choices about how to handle the matter. For example, leading R&B station WWRL in New York City played “Let‘s Makea Baby“ but decided not to announce its title. Other stations went so far asto alter the lyrics. Privately, several black disc jockeys described thecontroversy as “Jessie‘s phony crusade against sex on the air.“ The disc jockeys— who refused to allow their names to be used for fear of reprisals—accused Jackson of being “absolutely dishonest“ about the campaign with one popular radio personality making reference to Richard Pryor‘s 1975 appearance at one of Jackson‘s events:
This man suddenly discovered sexy recordings when several of our black recordingartists began to stop performing for nothing at his annual Black Expos. Remember,this is the same Jackson who presented at one of his Black Expos the filthiestrecording comedian in show business. And that comedian was filthy that night atthe Amphitheater. It got so bad that parents and their children could be seen leaving the place.
The disc jockeys further pointed out that Jackson was not critical of otherartists like Roberta Flack and the Brothers Johnson who had similarly suggestivesongs like “Jesse“ and “Get the Funk Out of My Face“ but who were supporters ofOperation PUSH. Several radio veterans were convinced that Jackson‘s actions werelittle more than a publicity stunt calling it “just another of his gimmicks, whichhe will soon drop for another, just to stay in the news.“
For his part, Jackson responded:
We have not … leveled ‘blasts at Billy Paul.‘ We have carefully and consciouslyavoided ‘blasts‘ at specific entertainers and instead have focused on specificrecords— of which Billy Paul‘s ‘Let‘s Make a Baby‘ is only one in a whole series,increasingly explicit and dominant in a market almost exclusively directed atchildren … Love and romance are part of life and we are not suggesting thatthese subjects should be ‘censored‘ in record lyrics. Our appeal has been directedtoward pornographic lyrics that degrade human sexuality rather than uplifting thehuman spirit. The lyrics change in Billy Paul‘s record was decided uponindependently by WVON radio. Mr. Paul has not protested to WVON about the change.The allegation that we have ‘suddenly discovered sexy records‘ because artistshave stopped performing for nothing at PUSH EXPO is patently false … The fact that several artists performed at EXPO who have songs we find objectionable isfurther evidence that our concerns are directed not at the artist but at the record.