Profile / Tipper Gore : Musicians Still See Red Over Her Drive to Clean Up Lyrics


Controversial rap artists may have more than George Bush and Dan Quayle to fret about this election year. Now, they may have to reckon with Mary Elizabeth (Tipper) Gore.

The wife of Sen. Albert Gore Jr.--the prospective Democratic vice presidential nominee--began criticizing violence and sexuality in pop music long before President Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle took out after Ice-T, the rapper recently attacked for his recording of “Cop Killer.”

In 1985 she was catapulted to national attention at a Senate hearing on music lyrics. Later that year, her Parents Music Resource Center, the National Parent-Teacher Assn. and the Recording Industry Assn. of America announced an agreement under which the record companies would voluntarily identify their explicit products.


Some parts of the music industry still seethe at her campaign. Rock star Frank Zappa has called Mrs. Gore, and other Washington women who founded the Parents Music Resource Center, “cultural terrorists.”

“I know they think I’m a prudish, uptight, sex-disliking Washington housewife with nothing better to do than eat bonbons all day,” she once told an interviewer. In reality, she said, “I love rock music, and most rock music is perfectly fine. I’m anti-explicit sex and violence to younger kids without notification.”

As she lamented in her best-selling 1987 book, “Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society”: “Something has happened since the days of ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘I Love Lucy.’ ”

Mrs. Gore, a mother of four, was born 44 years ago next month and was reared in Arlington, Va. Shortly after graduating from Boston University with a psychology degree in 1970, she married Gore, who had graduated in 1969 from Harvard. She later earned a master’s degree in psychology from George Peabody College.

The couple were working at the Nashville Tennessean--he as an editorial writer, she as a photographer--when Gore was first elected to the House in 1976.

She helped form the Congressional Wives Task Force, which under her leadership in 1978 and 1979 worked to publicize the levels of television violence to which children were exposed.