We all love a good story. The juicier the better. Told through old media, new media, social media, the arts: we just can’t get enough. And when it comes to good old-fashioned gossip, we’re secretly in our element. We’re only human, after all. Spectators and tellers of titillating tales; passing performers in the bittersweet melodies of social exchange. As for music? Well, “Without a song or a dance, what are we?”, ABBA asks. Songs vocalize our human wants and woes – the good, the bad and yes, the ugly.
Relationship violence is often played out in songs, songs we know and love. A quick Internet search offers up hundreds of pieces devoted to it over the years. And of course, behind every musical masterpiece there is a story which invites academic debate. But we want to know what your average listener makes of it all. Should some subjects be off limits? Why do we sing our hearts out and sway joyfully to what is essentially singalong-a-violence?
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Beloved by generations since 1968, a favorite at weddings and such like, and ‘recorded in the style of an old drinking song, Tom Jones’ ‘Delilah’ became the anthem of Stoke City Football Club and fans of Welsh rugby. The lyrics are not without criticism though: Dafydd Iwan (former president of Plaid Cymru), encouraging people to think about what they were singing, called in 2014 for Welsh rugby fans to cease belting out ‘Delilah’ at games because “it trivializes violence against women”. Hear, hear. After, in a BBC interview, Jones reportedly commented: “It’s not a political statement. This woman is unfaithful to him and the narrator just loses it … It’s something that happens in life: if it’s going to be taken literally, I think it takes the fun out of it.” Iwan leaves us with food for thought: next time you belt out this very singable song, you spare a thought for the poor woman who ‘laughs no more’, and avoid feeling any sympathy for the poor sod who killed her because he ‘just couldn’t take any more’.
Anyone can experience the devastation of relationship violence. Today, social media platforms help raise awareness of it and appropriate, professional support nationally waits patiently in the wings. Knowing the courage, it takes to speak out and the long-term trauma so many live with – trivializing domestic violence through any medium, in any generation, feels very uncomfortable. Thanks in part to celebrity performers (including Tina Turner, Christina Aguilera, and most recently Mel B) recounting their experiences of relationship violence, the way has been paved for others to come forward to share their stories.
After all, stories tell us what we all need to hear: you are not alone.