BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — "Louie Louie," the center of a decades-long pop culture controversy, is back on a middle-school band's program for a weekend parade.
Benton Harbor schools Superintendent Paula Dawning had cited what she said were the song's raunchy lyrics in ordering the McCord Middle School band not to perform it in tomorrow's Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival.
"Louie Louie," written by Richard Berry in 1956, is one of the most-recorded songs in history. The best-known, low-fidelity version was a hit for the Kingsmen in 1963. For decades, stories have circulated that the song contained obscenities.
In a letter sent home with McCord students, Dawning had said that "Louie Louie" was not appropriate for Benton Harbor students to play while representing the district — even though the marching band was not going to sing it.
But she reversed herself yesterday after consulting with parents.
"Based on [their] granting permission and the multiple versions of the song, the students will march in the parade and play ‘Louie Louie,’ " Dawning said in a news release.
On May 3, band members and parents complained to the Board of Education that it was too late to learn another song for a parade four days away.
"It's very stressful for us to try to come up with new songs for the band," eighth-grader Laurice Martin told the board. "We're trying to learn the songs from last year, but some of us weren't in the band last year."
At the time, Dawning said that if a majority of parents supported their children’s playing the song, she would reconsider.
The FBI spent more than two years in the 1960s investigating the lyrics on the Kingsmen's recording before declaring they not only were not obscene but also were "unintelligible at any speed."