6. R.E.M. – Donald Trump
Also recently, republican candidate Donald Trump walked out at a political rally in Washington, DC, to the sound of It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine). The members of the now defunct alternative group R.E.M. issued a statement soon after, asking that the song not be used and publicly distancing themselves from Trump’s political message. Singer Michael Stipe posted a biting statement on his Twitter account which reads: “Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.”
7. Tom Petty – Michelle Bachmann and George W. Bush
Tom Petty is another artist that is practically an institution in the U.S.A. Many of his songs have had such a long run on rock radio that they they are indented into the fiber of the country itself. That is why it comes at no surprise that politicians would be interested in using the popularity of his music for their own ends.
Running in the presidential primaries on the Republican side, Michelle Bachmann used the song “American Girl” at one of her rallies. Tom Petty swiftly sent a request for the song not be used from that point on, a request initially ignored by Bachman’s team.
Tom Petty had a similar experience with the campaign of George W. Bush that was using the song “I won’t back down”. In a similar way, Petty’s camp sent a cease-and-desist request, which in this case was quickly accepted. Petty did however have a brief association with the Democratic camp in following years, reportedly striking a friendship with Al Gore.
8. K’Naan – Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney ran for election in 2012, hoping to replace Barack Obama as president of the U.S.A. Similar to other politicians on the list, some of the musical material that his camp recommended his campaign use, came under criticism from the artists themselves. Such was the case with K’Naan’s international hit “Wavin’ Flag”.
The song had been massively successful especially after the use of the song as an anthem for the Football World Cup in South Africa. The artist declined that his song be played in the political campaign, citing as reasons the politics supported by the Romney campaign, that spoke too little for the poor and downtrodden, in the artist’s opinion. K’Naan also expressed how he felt that Obama, Romney’s rival in the race, did a better job of representing these groups. Romney relented and stopped using the song from that point onward.
9.Jackson Browne – John McCain
The McCain camp used Browne’s song “Running on empty” during the presidential campaign against Barack Obama, criticizing the president’s views regarding exploitation of natural resources. Clearly, Browne took offense over the use of the song and the message it was helping to spread.
Browne’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against the Republican candidate. In the end, the singer won a cash settlement and also a public apology from John McCain for using Browne’s music in the first place.
10.Foo Fighters – John McCain
John McCain came under fire from several artists whose music was played during the politician’s presidential run. These artists either felt that the political message did not suit their work and in some cases were public supporters of the Democrats instead.
So it was with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl who showed public support for Barack Obama. Upon the use of “My Hero” by John McCain, the band publicly requested that the song no longer be played on the campaign trail and criticized McCain for misunderstanding the theme of the song. John McCain’s advisers removed the song from future rallies, but also responded by saying that they had payed for the rights to play it, along with many others, giving them effectively legal right to do so if they chose to.
10. Neil Young – Donald Trump
In more recent news, Neil Young attempted to distance himself from Trump’s campaign and to stop the presidential cadidate from using the song “Rockin’ in the free world”. The song was featured prominently in the Trump building on the day that the millionaire announced that he was running for president.
Young responded that he in fact favored Democratic cadidate Bernie Sanders and asked that his music not be used in the future in Trump’s campaign. As in some of the other cases listed, Trump’s camp responded that they in fact had payed the performance rights group ASCAP for the licensing agreement rights to use the music. Donald Trump did however stop using the song and declared through his aides that this did not decrease his admiration for Young as an artist.
Since then, seemingly with Young’s approval, the song has been used by Bernie Sanders in his own campaign, making it another case of an artist simply uncomfortable with the politician or organization that is using the music, not the idea of political endorsements in themselves.