10 Songs Not To Sing In Prison

10 Songs Not To Sing In Prison

10 Songs Not To Sing In Prison

If you’re looking to get in trouble in prison, singing certain songs might be the way to go if you know what I mean.

Here are ten songs not to sing in prison: (describe the ten songs) Maybe these aren’t the ten worst songs, but they’re among the most questionable to sing in jail because of their content or because they are just so darn annoying that even if you keep your voice down, someone might complain about it anyway.

1) Stay away from rap music

Rap music and gangsta culture are all about bragging about money, cars, guns, and women. Prison is full of those things; it’s a sad but simple fact.

So if you start bragging in song, you’ll get into trouble because other inmates will be jealous of your lifestyle on the outside. Also, remember that guards aren’t fans of rap either. They usually grew up listening to classic rock and, as a result, consider rap degenerate.

So if you start rapping along with Snoop Dogg or Ice Cube songs, they’ll think you’re trying to incite a riot. Don’t put yourself in that position: stick with more neutral tunes such as Coldplay and Bob Marley.

2) Any song from Mamma Mia!

Some songs aren’t necessarily forbidden from a vocal standpoint but may be off-limits due to content.

So if you want to cover Abba in your cell block, make sure it’s not a song about love lost or your impending death.

You don’t want others thinking that you might have feelings for someone or suicidal tendencies that may lead to some unwanted attention from guards. Or maybe just clogging. Whatever you do, leave those hair metal ballads alone

3) Avoid Whitney Houston tunes

As much as you love I Will Always Love You, it might be best to leave that one out of your next karaoke night. Any song written by Sarah McLachlan is also a good idea.

Two other bad ideas: singing anything by Natalie Merchant and Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. As a general rule, steer clear of anything related to prisons, crime, or death-like New York State of Mind or pretty much every song from Les Misérables.

Songs about being away from home (or freedom) are also common no-nos, especially if you’re far from home and your significant other.

4) Do not sing Mustang Sally

The first and most important rule of avoiding trouble at Sing-Sing is No covers! You know all those songs you love; The ones you say I know every word! for; Yeah, those are everyone else’s favorite songs too.

Don’t even think about singing anything that wasn’t originally sung by an inmate serving time at Sing-Sing. It’ll just give people a reason to mess with you, and no one needs that kind of attention while trying to enjoy their time on a 15-year sentence.

5) Music without curse words is best

Popular music with curse words is often banned in prisons, including by historically controversial musicians like Justin Bieber and Jay-Z.

If you want to get along with inmates and officers alike, skip singing these tracks at your next gig behind bars. It also helps choose clean music for performances where children will be present. After all, having a good time shouldn’t lead kids to bad habits or profanity.

And remember: Lyrics are available on most services’; if you are concerned about specific lyrics or language, then it’s best to find something else instead of offending someone. When in doubt about whether an audience would prefer clean songs over explicit ones, it’s always best to stick with something family-friendly.

6) Skip any country music with guns, alcohol, or cheating themes

Most criminals, especially older ones, grew up when country music was considered more of a down-home genre, full of stories about bootlegging and cheating spouses. Nowadays, lyrics like these can cause prisoners to take offense whether directed at them or not.

You don’t want your singing to upset another inmate and start a fight. The best way around it is simple: pick a different genre entirely one with lovely, wholesome messages and appropriate themes.

Just steer clear of anything related to violence or sex if you plan on serenading anyone! Or stick with musicals; everyone loves musicals! But whatever you do, don’t attempt any hard rock while incarcerated! It never goes over well.

7) Any Disney songs are taboo

Sorry, kids, but your Frozen soundtrack isn’t going to cut it. Disney music is banned from penitentiaries because these songs are considered the most destructive force in an inmate’s life. 

This claim is backed by James S. Cochran, who wrote a terrifying book on how cultural factors can trigger anti-social behavior and prison violence (and yes, he did say a cartoon mouse was one of those factors).

Whether you agree with Mr. Cochran, there has been a ban on all Disney music at prisons for decades.

8) Don’t even think about singing opera

It’s a huge no-no. You could get killed for singing opera, says Ace Chapman,  who worked with prisoners as a Christian pastor. It’s like walking into a middle school playground and saying you’re better than everyone else.

Instead, Chapman suggests singing Mary Had a Little Lamb, which isn’t typically taught in music lessons but is easy enough for anyone to play on their guitar or ukulele and instantly recognizable by inmates everywhere.

And don’t even think about making up lyrics: It will only get you killed faster because it means you are challenging someone else’s authority over what is acceptable behavior (or song lyrics).

9) Only men can belt out these songs

When Johnny Cash croons Folsom Prison Blues, it sounds pretty cool. But if you’re a woman singing it especially if you’re a man with a falsetto voice it sounds just plain wrong.

Certain songs, like My Way and Bridge Over Troubled Water, are sung by certain genders across America for various reasons but are never (or rarely) performed by those who don’t identify with them. 

10) Anything by The Beatles

Beatles music is pretty standard among prisoners; it’s okay if you know every lyric and can do all of John Lennon’s vocal variations on your favorite tune from Sgt. Pepper, but there are limits.

Some things must be left unsaid and unsung. Don’t try anything off The White Album or anything else after Abbey Road; they won’t get it! Also, avoid Imagine at all costs (even if you think it’s a great message song). 


In a prison environment, where communication is limited, and quality entertainment options are scarce, music has a way of bringing inmates together.

Other top picks include We Shall Overcome because it can be sung while beating on tin cups with toothbrushes; Crazy by Patsy Cline or any other country song with lots of references to home; anything by Johnny Cash that can be used as an insult (I shot a man in Reno to watch him die, etc.); and The Cisco Kid (because of its confusing chorus). Inmates get creative when they need new tunes.