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Heavy metal suicide

As bands of the 1960's and 70's start to add distorted guitar and louder drums to music based on Blues and Rock, this style of music becomes known as "heavy metal".

Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath are a few of the first bands to play this style of music.

Sometimes the lyrics of heavy metal music are about conflict, anger, and violence. More and more heavy metal bands sing about violence, sex, and even Satan. Parents and other people wonder if this music is to entertain the fans or if there is something more threatening?

During the 1970s and 1980s, Ozzy Osbourne, W.A.S.P. and Iron Maiden sang lyrics about these ideas. This caused some Christian groups to think of heavy metal as a form of satanic worship. A popular debate was over heavy metal albums having hidden messages. These messages would cause listeners to worship the Devil or to commit suicide.

In 1990, Judas Priest is involved in a lawsuit. The argument is whether or not they are responsible for the suicide attempts in 1985 of two Nevada boys, James Vance and Ray Belknap. Ray Belknap shot himself in the face with a sawed off shotgun. He died instantly. Vance also shot himself. He survived after severely disfiguring his face in the attempt.

The boys' parents claim that a subliminal message of "do it" has been put in the song "Better by You Better Than Me" (from the Stained Class album). They also believe this command produced the suicide attempt. The lawsuit is eventually dismissed.

In a televised interview, Judas Priest members say that if they wanted to insert subliminal commands in their music, they would prefer to insert the words "Buy more of our records".

In 1984, a nineteen-year-old named John McCollum shoots and kills himself while listening to the music of Ozzy Osbourne. That night, John listened to several of Ozzy's albums, including "The Blizzard of Ozz. With his headphones on and the music playing, John places a .22-caliber handgun to his head and takes his own life.

John's parents claim that their son and listeners like him are especially at risk to being influenced by Osbourne's music because of their emotional instability.

John's parents sue Osbourne and his music label, CBS Records. They believe the lyrics, tones, and pounding rhythm of the music has the collective effect of encouraging self-destructive behavior.

The lawsuit focuses on a song off the Blizzard of Ozz album entitled "Suicide Solution". Included in the song is a 28-second instrumental break. In this break, the following lyrics are spoken, even though they are not printed anywhere on the album:

"You really know where it's at You got it Why try, why try Get the gun and try it Shoot, shoot, shoot."

The court rejects the McCollum's complaint based on the understanding that it violates the First Amendment. The McCollums disagree with the decision. On appeal, the California Court of Appeals have the same opinion that that there is nothing in any of Osbourne's songs that could be proven as a literal command to an immediate suicidal act.

The court also said that even if the lyrics express the view that suicide is an acceptable choice, Osbourne has the right to express that view.

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