Musicians that declined political endorsements (part 1)

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Election season for the presidency in the U.S.A. is well under way . Many celebrities are lining up to publicly offer their support for political candidates. The public endorsements run the gamut from those rather obvious, to the odd and unexpected. For example, Jon Bon Jovi is showing support for Hillary Clinton, director Spike Lee and musician Neil Young support Bernie Sanders. Then again Gary Busey and Tila Tequila
are championing Danald Trump’s candidacy. The reason why these endorsements are important is obvious. Celebrities appeal to a large public and can use this platform to communicate a political message to a huge number of people.

Music has always played an important part in political rallies and campaigns. Whether it is the politicians trying to present themselves as relatable by quoting lists of their favorite artists or by using uplifting songs as a soundtrack to these events, popular music is a constant. Some musicians though have declined having their music associated with certain politicians. In some cases they have have even taken legal action against the politicians making use of the music.

1. Bruce Springsteen – Ronald Reagan

In the 1980’s Bruce Springsteen’s music seem to draw on the voices of the american working men. With successful albums based on the tradition of rock and blues music, Springsteen often used his lyrics to speak about the problems affecting the working class from which he started. The album Born in the USA and the title track were unescapable on radio and music television during that time. The song however spoke of conflict and disenchantment, a message missed by some.

The irony was lost on presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, who used the song in his reelection campaign. The campaign advisers were eager to bank on the rousing chorus of Born in the USA and on the popularity of the song. Springsteen declined the use of it however. It was during this time that the artist spoke several times against the “trickle down economics” system that the Reagan administration had employed.

Springsteen chose to publicly voice his frustration by dedicating the song Johnny 99 to the president, a song that speaks of personal tragedy brought on by an economic recession.
2. Heart – Sarah Palin

In 2008 Sarah Palin was the controversial vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Palin made several remarks during the election which attracted criticism. Playing off her high school basketball nickname of “Sarah Barracuda”, the Palin camp used the song “Barracuda” by Heart during the Republican national convention. Palin was trying to project a public image of a salt of the earth, ready to get down to business type of politician and decided that the use of rock music would emphasize those features.

Her views however were not shared by Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart who made this very clear, saying that they do not believe the politician is representative of the majority of American women.

3. John Mellencamp – John McCain

Palin’s running-mate, John McCain was hoping to win the presidency once more for the Republican party after the two terms served by G.W. Bush. He also came under criticism for some of his statements, especially from liberals (of which musicians are plentiful). Like Springsteen, John Mellencamp’s music is firmly tied in with the lives of the American working-class. Songs like Pink Houses or R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. have practically earned anthem like status through their constant radio airplay.

Republican candidates have a history of attempting to use Mellencamp’s music throughout their campaigns, but the artist has declined each time, more recently during McCain’s presidential run.

4. Sting – George W. Bush

In 2000 Sting had a hit with the song Brand New Day. The upbeat rhythm and the song’s theme of change were deemed perfect for the campaigns of candidates during the 2000 Presidential race. Sting’s camp took offense to George W. Bush using the song at his political rallies and asked that this be stopped. Publicly it was motivated that since Sting was British, he did not want to favor either side in the American elections.
It was revealed though that the Democratic opponents also made use of the song during the same elections with Sting’s management choosing not pursue them in asking to stop. Sting would later befriend Al Gore, seemingly out of a shared interest in issues relating to climate change.

5. MGMT – Nicolas Sarkozy

In 2009 the Psychedelic rock band MGMT was registering a surprising global hit with their debut album, while the single Kids could be heard practically everywhere that music was being played. Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France at the time, made use of the song’s popularity by using it in internet ads for his party, the Union for Popular Movement. The band sued the party for the use of the music and the case was finally settled for a sum of a little over $39,000.

 

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