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BANNED ARTIST: Chris Brown
BANNED FROM: The UK, Australia, Canada, probably New Zealand
BANNED FOR: Brutally beating up a famous pop star
Chris Brown was refused entry into the United Kingdom in 2010 and Canada back in February due to his 2009 felony assault of Rihanna, and Australia followed suit this week by refusing Brown’s visa. New Zealand looks set to join the Brown-banners soon, with immigration minister Michael Woodhouse saying the pop star's numerous bans would make entering the country an extremely difficult sell.
BANNED ARTIST: Madonna
BANNED FROM: Egypt
BANNED FOR: Visiting Israel
Madonna was banned from performing in Egypt back in 2004, expressly for the grave sin of visiting plucky, irrepressible, Jefferson D'Arcy -esque neighbour Israel. Apparently, Egypt is a staunch, dues-paying member of NO MA’DGE.
BANNED ARTIST: The Bloodhound Gang
BANNED FROM: Russia
BANNED FOR: Flag desecration
At a Russian gig in 2013, Bloodhound Gang bassist Jared Hasselhoff stuffed the Russian flag down the front of his pants and pulled it out the rear, telling the crowd “don’t tell Putin!” Well, somebody must’ve snitched: the band were subsequently attacked by Russian nationalists, banned from performing in the country, and threatened with criminal charges should they ever return. "You and me baby, we got nothin’ but scandals / so let’s do it like they do on the investigatory ethics panel."
BANNED ARTIST: Lamb of God
BANNED FROM: Malaysia
BANNED FOR: Blasphemous lyrics
A performance by Virginia metal band Lamb of God was unceremoniously cancelled by the Malaysian government in 2013 after the Department of Islamic Development protested the group on the grounds that they were “Satanic.” Guitarist Mark Morton said in a statement: “The groups, parties and powers that have taken the most offense to our music and lyrics have themselves only made a passing glance at the content and meanings of those songs.” To be fair, though, you do have songs called “Walk With Me In Hell” and “Blacken the Cursed Sun”, dude.
BANNED ARTIST: Björk
BANNED FROM: China
BANNED FOR: Promoting Tibetan independence
Björk angered Chinese authorities in 2008, when she dedicated her song “Declare Independence” to Tibet during a performance in Shanghai. The Chinese Ministry of Culture announced that artists who "threaten national unity" would be banned, and performance restrictions tightened across the board after the concert. Bob Dylan was forced to cancel two Chinese performances soon afterwards, as officials were wary of his countercultural background.
BANNED ARTIST: Akon
BANNED FROM: Sri Lanka
BANNED FOR: Buddha-featuring music video
Akon was left unable to enter Sri Lanka in 2010 after the music video for his and David Guetta’s song “Sexy Bitch Chick” caused widespread, violent protests. The reason? The video showed a ton of closeups of Guetta’s doofy face a statue of Buddha being gyrated on and around by the aforementioned sexy chicks. Well…that makes sense too.
BANNED ARTIST: Elton John
BANNED FROM: Egypt
BANNED FOR: Saying Jesus was an intelligent gay man
The Egyptian Music Union got Elton John banned from the country in 2010 for describing Jesus as “a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems” in Parade magazine. Maybe Elton was actually talking about David Sedaris?
BANNED ARTIST: Erykah Badu
BANNED FROM: Malaysia
BANNED FOR: Inflammatory tattoo
Malaysia’s government doesn’t take too kindly to pop stars tattooing the Arabic word for Allah on themselves, as Erykah Badu discovered when she was banned from Malayasia in 2010. Malaysian information minister called the tattoo “an insult to Islam and a very serious offence” after publicity photos of Badu with the tattoo visible ignited outrage.
BANNED ARTIST: The Beatles
BANNED FROM: The Philippines
BANNED FOR: Refusing a presidential invitation
The Fab Four were forced to flee the Philippines in 1966 after The Manila Times accused the band of snubbing First Lady Imelda Marcos by refusing to show up to her lunch party, even though the band hadn’t been notified they’d received an invitation. The Beatles, their crew, and manager Brian Epstein had to brave an angry mob armed with guns and makeshift clubs at the airport before they could leave the country. Oh well, at least they got off easier than Magellan.
BANNED ARTIST: Jerry Lee Lewis
BANNED FROM: The UK
BANNED FOR: Teen cousin marriage
Public outcry forced the “Great Balls of Fire” singer from the UK in 1958 after the then-new tabloid press caught wind of his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin Myra Brown. Lewis didn’t exactly help matters by defending himself at a press conference by saying the British were “just jealous” (wtf?), and by the revelation that he was still technically married to wife Jane Mitcham. The scandal sent Lewis’ career into a nosedive from which it never really recovered. I’m sure he’s still a hit in Shelbyville though.
Whether it’s for blasphemous lyrics, incendiary acts, or revealing pants, musicians are always running the risk of being blacklisted and left unable to enter different countries.
Here in Canada, we’ve cultivated quite the reputation for being a difficult place for musicians to enter, especially artists that create (to quote Justin Trudeau) “a certain type of music”. Of course, we’ve got nothing on nations like Malaysia and China in terms of keeping out head-boppin’ undesirables.
Just so you don’t accidentally infuriate an entire country and leave yourself trapped in an airport transit zone, here are 9 cautionary tales of famous artists that were blacklisted from entering different countries, as well as the reason they were banned. Don’t pull a Jerry Lee Lewis!