Money for Nothing includes a word that many people wouldn’t tolerate if released today. Dire Straits would likely feel the impact of cancel culture so prevalent now.
However, language and usage of certain terms are constantly changing. Some words that were once commonly used are no longer acceptable.
We’re taking a closer look into Money for Nothing to determine if, in fact, it is a homophobic song.
Let’s check it out!
Who Originally Wrote Money For Nothing?
The song Money for Nothing was originally written in 1985 by British singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer, Mark Knopfler. Born in August 1949 in Glasgow, Scotland, he’s best known for his career as the lead guitarist of Dire Straits.
He fell in love with music at a very young age while watching his uncle play the piano and harmonica. Due to his exceptional musical performance and producing abilities, many continue to view him as a genius. Knopfler blends musical styles of folk, pub rock, and country music into an entirely new genre.
While attending the University of Leeds, he became friends with guitarist Steve Phillips. The two performed regularly together, and Phillips helped Knopfler develop a unique picking style. After graduating from Leeds, he spent a few years as a college lecturer. It was then that Knopfler co-founded the band Dire Straits with his brother, David Knopfler, in 1977.
Who First Recorded Money For Nothing?
The British rock band Dire Straits was the first to record Money for Nothing. The band consisted of Mark Knopfler (lead vocals and lead guitar), David Knopfler (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), John Illsley (bass guitar and backing vocals), and Pick Withers (drums and percussion).
The group’s name reflected their early financial situation. But eventually, Dire Straits released six albums between 1978 and 1991, selling more than 120 million records. However, the band’s only #1 hit would be Money for Nothing. Ironically, despite the song’s message of MTV ruining music, the accompanying video ended up being a great success on the network.
The song received 16 nominations between the Brit Awards, Grammy Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards. However, it won Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 1986 Grammy Awards. In addition, the song’s video also won Video of the Year and Best Group Video at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.
What Was Mark Knopfler’s Creative Process for the Song?
Every artist has a unique creative process when writing their songs. Knopfler has shared that he wrote the song after overhearing a couple of delivery men complaining about their jobs while watching MTV.
The song has an authentic working-class feel because Knopfler used some of the exact phrases the men were sharing. He immediately sat down and wrote as many words as possible.
Did Sting Really Co-Write Money For Nothing?
Despite Sting receiving co-writing credit, he had nothing to do with the actual writing of the song. Instead, the recognition comes from the English musician singing the opening line, “I want my MTV.” Sting was on vacation in the area where Dire Straits was recording the track. He stopped by the studio to help them, and it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to have him sing the first line.
The Police’s record company said the line sounded similar to their song Don’t Stand So Close to Me. Sting neither wanted nor asked for the songwriting credit. However, the recording company wanted its share of royalties from the tune, and the co-writing credit was necessary to appease them.
Why Do People Say Money For Nothing is Homophobic?
The song Money for Nothing uses a derogatory term for a gay man multiple times, which many listeners feel is homophobic. The song’s lyrics have been debated and controversial for over three decades. While the term used was considered offensive at the time the song was written, its become increasingly even more unacceptable today.
Many artists, Knopfler included, often write songs from another individual’s perspective, whether real or make-believe. Money for Nothing is one of many tunes from the perspective of a fictional character. While Knopfler is voicing the words, it’s not his perspective or beliefs.
Knopfler often has mixed feelings regarding the lyrics. He described the character in Money for Nothing in a 1985 Rolling Stone interview as “a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality.” The idea is that someone of that mental capacity would use that type of language.
As it stands, many radio stations and television programs that play the song use an edited version. Knopfler has even edited the hit tune in live performances and replaced the offensive term with the word “queenie.”
And in 2011, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council banned radio stations from playing the unedited version of the song. However, the decision was reversed, and the choice to run the tune was left up to the individual stations. As a result, most stations will err on the side of caution and play the edited version.
So, Is Money For Nothing a Homophobic Song?
While the song Money for Nothing does use a homophobic slur, the song isn’t particularly homophobic. The lyrics include a term that was common at the time of the tune’s writing. This is why it’s important to understand the context of the usage and do some research before creating labels too quickly.
Thankfully, the use of the derogatory word has changed considerably since the 1980s. It’s become much less accepted than a few decades ago. Fortunately, when you hear the song on the radio, it’ll almost always exclude the slur.
How do you feel about Money for Nothing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.