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Arts & Culture

Nobody Panic! It's Only A Pop Song About Sex

Before 1909, American pop songs could be romantic and even coy about sex. But none were so explicit about adultery as "I Love My Wife — But Oh! You Kid!" about a married man named Jonesy and the young lass who catches his eye.

"It was a pickup line," writer Jody Rosen tells NPR's Robert Siegel. Rosen wrote an entertaining history of the song and its many imitators for Slate. "The phrase — 'Oh, you kid!' — suggested sauciness and adultery."

These songwriters and copycats were roaring 10 years earlier than the Roaring '20s, but they also anticipated the "the transgressiveness and salaciousness of rock 'n' roll and hip-hop."

"In fact, it wasn't just these sorts of songs ... incredibly popular and young people danced to them in the dance halls," Rosen says. "It's the reaction of the social reformers and guardians of public morality to the song that show us the same kinds of moral panics that greeted those later forms of popular music."

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