A Brief History of Swearing in Music

As Fuck Buttons release their new album, we look at some of the finest sweary bits in popular music.

Fuck Buttons gives an interview at Red Bull Music Academy Radio Pop-Up Studio at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain.
Fuck Buttons at RBMA Radio at Primavera© Pere Masramon/Red Bull Content Pool

As one of our favorite purveyors of the swear word, Fuck Buttons release their third album 'Slow Focus' to critical acclaim this week, Kate Hutchinson rounds up some of the finest sweary bits in popular music. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Sweariest Song

Lil' Jon - 'Real N**** Roll Call' (feat. Ice Cube). There are some pretty mighty contenders for the largest number of cusses crammed into a song like some kind of swearnado. Gwen Stefani's 'Hollaback Girl' features a commendable 38 "shits," while Fatboy Slim’s 'Fucking In Heaven' reportedly has 120 F-bombs (no, we haven't counted). And that's before we've got to hip-hop.

The 1980s group, 2 Live Crew, made everyone sound like they were just writing the encore for the school play and Lil’ Jon (see below) holds a Guinness World Record with 295 cusses in just one song: 2004’s 'Real N**** Roll Call,' with Ice Cube. A special gold star, however, goes to Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals. Their 1996 single 'The Man Don't Give A Fuck' included 52 fucks -- and made the UK Top 40 chart.

Sweariest Album

Lil' Jon & The East Side Boyz - 'Crunk Juice.' Enter the self-styled “kings of crunk”, Lil’ Jon & The East Side Boyz – the sort of hip-hop grunters that made mothers start fashioning chastity earmuffs for their children out of cotton wool and gaffer tape. Despite their image, however, the Boyz just want to party… with lots and lots of swearing. Their fifth album, 'Crunk Juice,' features a mind-melting approximation of 784 swears and just about manages to squeeze in the other important things, like beats.

Secret Swear

The Knack - 'My Sharona.' The Knack’s quirk-pop one-hit wonder 'My Sharona' was the biggest song of 1978 and is still played, without fail, at every student indie night across the country. But it actually features a secret F-bomb. According to the BBC, the track’s producer, Mike Chapman, added a “chanted background vocal, very low in the mix”, which snuck in a fuck “followed by ‘a-me’.” The single went on to shift 10 million copies.

The First Fuck in Song?

Eddy Duchin - 'Old Man Moses'. American pianist Eddy Duchin looked like the kind of clean-cut chap your parents wish you’d might bring home one day, but his 1938 cover of Louis Armstrong’s 'Old Man Moses,' with Patricia Norman on vocals, caused a scandal for its wink-wink use of innuendo. The lyric “bucket” was heard as “fuck it” and it is commonly thought to be the first use of the F-word in popular music.

Best Uncensored Fuck

Rage Against The Machine - 'Killing In The Name.' It’s a fierce anti-establishment anthem that still feels brilliant to yell along to: “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” So imagine our delight when the band performed on Radio 5 Live in the UK and, having previously agreed with the show’s producers not to swear, turned the airwaves blue.

Sweariest Musician

Sinead O'Connor. It’s the most highly contended category by far, but you have to hand it to Irish pop banshee Sinead O’Connor for her so-blue-it’s-almost-indigo way with words, liberally applying the F-word in public like its her own-brand fragrance. Her current tour diary is an illuminating guide to how to use it. Our favourite O’Connor anecdote, though, is when she told Prince, who wrote her hit 'Nothing Compares 2 U,' to “fuck himself” after he complained about her language.

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