From Springsteen vs. Reagan to Neil Young vs. the Donald
BY EVELINE CHAO RollingStone.com 7/08/15
In 1932, FDR became the first presidential candidate to use a pre-existing popular tune for a campaign when he embraced “Happy Days Are Here Again” for his White House bid. It was a move that set future politicians on a collision course with the artists whose songs they adopted.
Rock List: Readers’ Best Protest Songs »
The first major collision took place in 1984, when Bruce Springsteen objected to President Ronald Reagan’s plans to use “Born in the U.S.A.” during his reelection run. But it was hardly the last. Springsteen ushered in a new dimension to the campaign-song hit parade: the practice of speaking out against, and sometimes suing, mostly Republican politicians who appropriated tunes without the musicians’ endorsement.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with money. It has to do with the political viewpoint of the artist or songwriter or publisher,” Chuck Rubin, founder of Artists Rights Enforcement Corporation, tells Rolling Stone. “But they do have the right to either say yea or nay.” The fact that politicians feel compelled to link themselves to particular songs, he adds, “just goes to show how powerful music can be.”
The issue of who gets to decide how that power is used, politically, flares up every campaign season, it seems – most recently when Neil Young took Donald Trump to task over the latter playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” at the kickoff event for his presidential bid. “I do not trust politicians. . . I trust people,” the rocker stated on Facebook, expressing the shared sentiments of many of his fellow musicians. “So I make my music for people, not for candidates.”
Here, to make battles past, present and future just a little less confusing, is a history of artists taking a stand against politicians using their songs.
Bruce Springsteen vs. Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan
When: 1984, 1996, 2000
Song: “Born in the U.S.A.”
Controversy: Springsteen’s 1984 classic has become an election-season go-to for politicians who don’t seem to get the biting critique behind the song’s ostensibly jingoistic title and chorus. The misappropriation began right out the gate, just after the single and its album became monster hits. A Reagan advisor asked if they could use the song in the president’s reelection campaign, and Springsteen said no. Even so, Reagan referenced the musician in a stump speech: “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about.” Springsteen began to speak out against Reagan, questioning during a show whether Reagan actually listened to his music, and later telling Rolling Stone, “I think people have a need to feel good about the country they live in. But what’s happening, I think, is that that need – which is a good thing – is getting manipulated and exploited.” Later, Bob Dole and then Pat Buchanan also used the song in their campaigns, until Springsteen objected.
Result: At least one commentator has argued that being co-opted by Reagan is in large part what politicized Springsteen, making him the outspoken liberal he is today. Whether this is the case or not, Bruce inarguably paved the way for other artists to take a stand by telling politicians to stop using their songs.
Bobby McFerrin vs. George H.W. Bush
Song: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
Controversy: The VP used the a cappella chart-topper as his presidential campaign theme, but McFerrin was a Dukakis supporter, and asked team Bush to stop. The Republican candidate went on a charm offensive, telling McFerrin he loved the song and inviting him to dinner, but the singer was unmoved. To drive home the point, he even stopped performing the song for a while.
Result: The Bush campaign dropped the tune, and “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie became its official song instead.
Isaac Hayes vs. Bob Dole
Song: “Soul Man”
Controversy: In 1996, Sam Moore recorded a new version of the 1967 Sam and Dave classic for the Dole campaign, in which “I’m a soul man” became “I’m a Dole man.” The reworking also included digs at opponent Bill Clinton, like, “And he [Dole] don’t have no girl friends, no!” The Dole campaign loved it and used it regularly, including at that year’s Republication convention. It turned out, however, that the rights to the song were not Moore’s to give. “Soul Man” was written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and some rights were also held by Rondor Music (whose owners were liberals). Rondor sent the campaign a cease-and-desist letter, threatening to sue for $10,000 each time the song was used. Hayes told the New York Daily News, “Nobody gave any permission here,” adding, “It also bothers me because people may get the impression that David [Porter] and I endorse Bob Dole, which we don’t.” As the controversy raged, one journalist, Charles Memminger, wrote in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, “Connecting Bob Dole to ‘Soul Man’ is like connecting Jeffrey Dahmer to ‘Feelings.'”
Result: Dole stopped using the song, and no further legal action was taken. Searching for new music to use, the campaign decided on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” until Springsteen protested via an open letter. Eventually the Dole camp settled on “American Boy” by country singer Eddie Rabbitt, who gladly gave permission.
Sting vs. George W. Bush
Song: “Brand New Day”
Controversy: Sting’s upbeat hit was on regular rotation at Bush events until the artist asked the campaign to stop playing it. Salon quoted manager Miles Copeland as saying that, as a Brit, Sting simply didn’t want to take sides in U.S. politics. But the song was being heavily used by the Gore campaign too, and though Copeland claimed in the Salon piece that Gore’s folks would soon be asked to stop as well, such action never came to pass.
Result: The Bush folks pulled the plug on the song, and in 2009, Sting and Al had brunch.
Boston vs. Mike Huckabee
Song: “More Than a Feeling”
Controversy: During primary season, one-time Republican frontrunner and amateur bass player Huckabee capped off many of his events by playing “More Than a Feeling” with his band Capitol Offense – sometimes with former Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau laying down a guest solo. “More Than a Feeling” writer and Boston founder Tom Scholz took exception to this, penning an open letter to Huckabee in which he said that he was “impressed” that the candidate had learned his bass guitar parts but nonetheless felt like he’d been “ripped off, dude!” “Boston has never endorsed a political candidate,” wrote Scholz, who personally backed Obama, “and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for.”
Result: Huckabee’s campaign – and therefore his use of the song – ended shortly thereafter when he conceded the Republican nomination to John McCain.
Sam Moore vs. Barack Obama
Song: “Hold On, I’m Comin'”
Controversy: In a rare instance of a Democratic candidate being asked to cease and desist from using a song, Moore – the tenor voice in R&B duo Sam and Dave – asked Obama to stop playing “Hold On, I’m Comin'” at rallies (where audience members sang, “Hold on, Obama’s comin'”). The singer wrote, “I have not agreed to endorse you for the highest office in our land. . . . My vote is a very private matter between myself and the ballot box.” He added, however, that he found it “thrilling” to see a man of color run for the presidency.
Result: The Obama team stopped using the song, and all was apparently forgiven. The following year, Moore performed with Sting and Elvis Costello at an inaugural ball for the newly elected president. And in 2013, he played at the White House as part of a PBS music series.
Gretchen Peters vs. Sarah Palin
Song: “Independence Day”
Controversy: Peters won a CMA Song of the Year award for her powerful 1993 country tune, which was recorded and released by Martina McBride. When the track was used to introduce Palin at a rally, the songwriter lashed out, saying, “The fact that the McCain/Palin campaign is using a song about an abused woman as a rallying cry for their Vice Presidential candidate, a woman who would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest, is beyond irony. They are co-opting the song, completely overlooking the context and message, and using it to promote a candidate who would set women’s rights back decades.”
Result: Instead of suing the campaign to make them stop playing the song, Peters donated all of the election season royalties from “Independence Day” to Planned Parenthood. She also encouraged others to make similar donations under the name “Sarah Palin.” The organization raised a million dollars during that period.Jackson
Browne vs. John McCain
Song: “Running on Empty”
Controversy: After the McCain campaign used a snippet of “Running on Empty” in an ad mocking Barack Obama’s statements about gas conservation, longtime Democrat Browne filed a lawsuit against the candidate and the Republican Party. “The misappropriation of Jackson Browne’s endorsement is entirely reprehensible,” the musician’s lawyer stated, “and I have no doubt that a jury will agree.”
Result: Browne won an undisclosed cash settlement and a public apology from McCain. The New York Times called the suit, along with David Byrne’s successful 2010 suit against Charlie Christ, a “turning point” in the long history of politicians using pop tunes without artists’ permission. The controversy also helped McCain earn the dubious d
Orleans vs. John McCain, George W. Bush
When: 2008, 2004
Song: “Still the One”
Controversy: McCain’s use of “Still the One” following his New Hampshire primary win was unsurprisingly met with condemnation from one of the song’s co-writers, former Orleans member John Hall – who happened to be a Democratic congressman at the time. Four years earlier, Hall had discovered that the Bush-Cheney campaign was using the same song when he was watching Ohio coverage on TV. “My wife and I were looking at each other with our mouths hanging open,” he told Rolling Stone.
Result: Hall sent cease-and-desist letters, both in 2008 and 2004. The McCain campaign had no comment; Bush-Cheney stopped using the tune.
Foo Fighters vs. John McCain
Song: “My Hero”
Controversy: An Obama supporter, Dave Grohl did not consider McCain to be his hero nor worthy of using the Foos’ 1998 single during his presidential run. “It’s frustrating and infuriating that someone who claims to speak for the American people would repeatedly show such little respect for creativity and intellectual property,” the band said in a statement, referencing the numerous other instances when the McCain camp used songs against the artists’ wishes. “The saddest thing about this is that ‘My Hero’ was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential.”
Result: “The McCain-Palin campaign respects copyright,” a spokesman said, repeating the campaign’s well-practiced response to such disputes. “Accordingly, this campaign has obtained and paid for licenses from performing rights organizations, giving us permission to play millions of different songs, including ‘My Hero.'”
Heart vs. Sarah Palin
Controversy: Vice presidential candidate Palin – whose nickname from high school basketball was “Sarah Barracuda” – used the Heart track at the Republican National Convention as her theme song. The Wilson sisters were not amused and sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Republicans. “I feel completely fucked over,” Nancy Wilson said. “Sarah Palin’s views and values in no way represent us as American women.”
Result: Sarah Barracuda still felt like the song represented her, however, and the McCain campaign continued using it at rallies, claiming that they had the right to do so through a blanket ASCAP license.
Van Halen vs. John McCain
Song: “Right Now”
Controversy: The self-proclaimed “maverick” candidate used one of the dullest tracks from the Van Hagar era during a televised rally; the brothers Van Halen jumped. They issued a statement saying, “Permission was not sought or granted nor would it have been given.” While not necessarily a McCain supporter, Sammy Hagar – the song’s singer and co-writer – said that he got goose bumps, in a positive sense, from the candidate playing the song. “I was honored that a potential president of the United States used those words in a positive sense, like, ‘We gotta act now!'” he enthused.
Result: McCain kept using the song. What’s perhaps more important is that the incident actually inspired Eddie Van Halen to call up Hagar, even though the two ended up just playing phone tag.
John Mellencamp vs. John McCain, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan
When: 2008, 2000 and 1984
Songs: “Our Country,” “Pink Houses”; “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”; “Pink Houses”
Controversy: McCain used the tunes at rallies to underscore his “Country First” message. Mellencamp – who has called himself “as left-wing as you can get” and performed at a John Edwards rally during the 2008 Democratic primaries – asked that the presidential hopeful cease and desist. The rocker also asked Bush to stop using “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” in 2000, and told Salon that he discouraged Reagan from using “Pink Houses” as his campaign song in 1984 when reps reached out.
Result: Four days after Mellencamp’s request was made, McCain’s campaign announced that it would no longer play either “Our Country” or “Pink Houses” at events.
Abba vs. John McCain
Song: “Take a Chance on Me”
Controversy: The Swedish pop group did not take a chance on McCain. Though the Republican is a noted Abba fan – his favorite song is “Dancing Queen” – the band sent his campaign a cease-and-desist letter for playing its hit at events. “We played it a couple times and it’s my understanding [Abba] went berserk,” said McCain.
Result: No word on whether McCain told the band, “If you change your mind, I’m the first in line.” In any case, the campaign stopped playing the song.
Bon Jovi vs. Sarah Palin
Song: “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”
Controversy: After the song was played at several Palin rallies, Jon Bon Jovi – who has thrown a $30,800 per plate dinner for Obama at his home – complained in a statement. “We wrote this song as a thank you to those who have supported us over the past twenty-five years,” he wrote. “The song has since become a banner for our home state of New Jersey and the de facto theme song for our partnerships around the country to build homes and rebuild communities. Although we were not asked, we do not approve of their use of ‘Home.'”
Result: No legal action was taken, and the McCain campaign pointed out that venues pay blanket licenses, entitling many songs by a variety of artists to be played at public events.
MGMT vs. Nicolas Sarkozy
Controversy: The indie band’s song was everywhere in 2009 – including two online videos for the French president’s UMP (Union for Popular Movement) party. The American psychedelic rockers threatened to sue, and the UMP said it had used the song by mistake and offered a token one euro in compensation. The band’s French lawyer, Isabelle Wekstein, rejected the offer as “insulting.” Ironically, at the time, Sarkozy was pushing a bill to crack down on Internet piracy.
Result: The UMP party settled for around 29,000 more euros than originally offered (a U.S. sum of $39,050), which MGMT donated to an artists’ rights organization. Meanwhile, the Internet piracy bill, known as the “three strikes law,” was rejected twice before finally passing in September 2009.
Joe Walsh vs. Joe Walsh
Song: “Walk Away”
Controversy: One Joe Walsh is a guitarist for the Eagles; the other Joe Walsh is an Illinois congressman. A lawyer for Eagles Joe Walsh sent politician Joe Walsh a cease-and-desist letter for making a commercial in which another Joe – Joe Cantafio of the band 101st Rock Division – sings a version of the James Gang number “Walk Away” rewritten as “Lead Away.” The letter was the epitome of snark, admonishing, “Now, I know why you used Joe’s music – it’s undoubtedly because it’s a lot better than any music you or your staff could have written. But that’s the point. Since Joe writes better songs than you do, the Copyright Act rewards him by letting him decide who gets to use the songs he writes.”
Result: The congressman responded with a letter stating that the song was performed as a parody and thus constituted fair use under copyright law. He also mused, “I hope the Democratic National Committee and Nancy Pelosi didn’t put you up to this.”
Rush vs. Rand Paul
Songs: “The Spirit of Radio,” “Tom Sawyer”
Controversy: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is both a libertarian and an ardent Rush fan – he’s quoted their lyrics in speeches and played their songs at a victory rally and in a campaign video. The prog rockers were known libertarians too – they praised Ayn Rand in the liner notes to their album 2112 – but nonetheless, the band hit Paul with a cease-and-desist letter. At the time, Rush’s attorney said the action was taken due to copyright issues and that, as Canadians, the group had no desire to mix music with politics.
Result: Five years after the controversy, Paul continues to suffer the indignity of hearing just how much his favorite band dislikes him. Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart is now an American citizen and recently told Rolling Stone that he would never vote for Paul and that it’s “very obvious” that the politician “hates women and brown people.”
Don Henley vs. Chuck DeVore
Songs: “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” “The Boys of Summer”
Controversy: By 2010, musicians had taken politicians to trial over non-approved use of their music, but when Henley sued DeVore, it marked the first time that such a court case involved a parody. The California Republican senatorial candidate had turned Henley’s song “The Boys of Summer” into a takedown of Obama and liberalism called “The Hope of November.” The rocker, an Obama supporter, asked YouTube to remove videos featuring the reworking of his song, upon which DeVore not only demanded that they be restored, but also insisted that his versions were legal as parodies. And he went on to turn Henley’s “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” into “All She Wants to Do Is Tax.”
Result: The two sides went to court, and after parsing the differences between “parody” and “satire,” U.S. District Court Judge James Selna wrote that DeVore’s versions of Henley’s tunes failed to mock the songs and songwriter – which would have made them allowable as parody. DeVore wound up settling and apologizing.
David Byrne vs. Charlie Crist
Song: “Road to Nowhere”
Controversy: Like Survivor’s Frankie Sullivan, Byrne is one of the few artists who’s gone so far as to sue a political candidate over song use. He took Crist to court for no less than $1 million over an attack video against the senatorial candidate’s then-opponent Marco Rubio that featured 1985 Talking Heads single “Road to Nowhere.”
Result: Crist agreed to pay an undisclosed sum and also posted an apology video on YouTube. Byrne said in a statement afterwards, “It turns out I am one of the few artists who has the bucks and [guts] to challenge such usage. . . . my hope is that by standing up to this practice maybe it can be made to be a less common option, or better yet an option that is never taken in the future.”
Journey vs. Newt Gingrich
Song: “Don’t Stop Believin'”
Controversy: Maybe Newt was obsessed with that Sopranos finale too, because four years after the landmark HBO series cut to black to Journey’s motivational anthem, the conservative politician blasted the song at a campaign event. Legal reps of the band’s classic-era singer Steve Perry sent a cease-and-desist letter. “They just think music is free like a lot of other people on the planet,” his lawyer, Lee Phillips, told Variety.
Result: Gingrich was no longer able to “hold on to that feelin'” when he dropped out of the presidential race the following year.
Katrina and the Waves vs. Michele Bachmann
Song: “Walking on Sunshine”
Controversy: After finding out that Bachmann was playing the song at campaign events, the New Wave band issued a statement on its website, making it clear that the group did not endorse the politician’s appropriation of its music. Singer Katrina Leskanich told Rolling Stone, “If I disagree with the policies, opinions or platforms for [my song’s] use, I’ve no choice but to try and defend the song and prevent its misuse. Music can be both powerful and moving and sometimes even a little dangerous.”
Result: The Washington Post’s Joe Heim took it upon himself to find Bachmann new campaign music, and learned that Ted Nugent was happy to lend his song “Stranglehold” to her cause. “Michele Bachmann is clearly a Great American,” the Nuge wrote in a hilarious e-mail to the newspaper. “Her words have iron, her spirit is indefatigable and her beauty contagious. In a perfect world her ultimate campaign theme song would be WANG DANG SWEET [expletive] just to fire up America and prove that political correctness is laughable.”
Tom Petty vs. Michele Bachmann, George W. Bush
When: 2011, 2000
Song: “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down”
Controversy: After Republican presidential hopeful Bachmann played Petty’s “American Girl” at a rally, Petty immediately sent the campaign a cease-and-desist letter. Eleven years earlier, he also posted a notice to the Bush campaign telling them to stop using “I Won’t Back Down.”
Result: Despite Petty’s letter, the Minnesota congresswoman continued playing the song – including on the day right after receiving the cease-and-desist notice. Bush, however, did back down, and Petty later made his political leanings clear when he performed “I Won’t Back Down” at a private concert in Al Gore’s home the night of his concession speech. Tipper Gore reportedly played drums.
Survivor vs. Newt Gingrich
Song: “Eye of the Tiger”
Controversy: Survivor band member Frankie Sullivan is one of the handful of artists who have actually brought suit against a politician for using their music. He alleged that Gingrich has been playing the Rocky III theme song, which he co-wrote, at public appearances as far back as 2009. (The group also complained about the McCain-Palin campaign using the same tune in 2008.) At one point during the brouhaha, former Survivor frontman Dave Bickler appeared on The Colbert Report and sang passages from Gingrich’s book A Nation Like No Other to the melody of “Eye of the Tiger.”
Result: Gingrich insisted he had the right to use the song and initially fought back with several court motions, but, perhaps losing heart when his campaign began to tank, eventually settled.
The Heavy vs. Newt Gingrich
Song: “How You Like Me Now?”
Controversy: Gingrich was served with a cease-and-desist notice by Montreal-based music publisher Third Side Music on behalf of the Heavy, for playing their song at a rally in Florida. The British indie-rock band posted on its Facebook page, “If you heard ‘How You Like Me Now?’ being used by Republican, Newt Gingrich, in his campaign, we’d like you to know it had fuck all to do with us and we are trying to stop it being used. TWATS.”
Result: The group didn’t pursue any further legal action, but Gingrich was smacked soon after with a lawsuit for using Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
Cyndi Lauper vs. Democratic National Committee
Song: “True Colors”
Controversy: The DNC, led by chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz, used Cyndi Lauper’s 1986 classic in an attack ad against Mitt Romney titled – surprise! – “True Color.” When Lauper found out, she expressed her displeasure on Twitter, writing, “I wouldn’t have wanted that song to be used in that way” and “Mr. Romney can discredit himself without the use of my work.”
Result: Mitch Stewart, the Battleground States Director for Obama for America, responded on Twitter, “Cyndi Lauper has never spoken truer words.” The ad was removed from YouTube.
Dee Snider vs. Paul Ryan
Song: “We’re Not Gonna Take It”
Controversy: Things Dee Snider likes: big hair and working out. Things he doesn’t like: Paul Ryan. When the Twisted Sister frontman learned that the Republican vice presidential candidate was opening campaign stops with the glam-metal classic, he issued the following statement: “I emphatically denounce Paul Ryan’s use of my song ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ as recorded by my band Twisted Sister. There is almost nothing on which I agree with Paul Ryan, except perhaps the use of the P90X.” Snider wasn’t the only rocker whose hackles Ryan raised during the 2012 campaign: Tom Morello also spoke out against the VP hopeful when the politician expressed his love of the guitarist’s band Rage Against the Machine.
Result: A Ryan spokesperson told Politico in an e-mail: “We’re Not Gonna Play It anymore.”
Silversun Pickups vs. Mitt Romney
Song: “Panic Switch”
Controversy: With lyrics like, “When you see yourself in a crowded room?/Do your fingers itch? Are you pistol-whipped?/Do you step in line or release the glitch?,” Silversun Pickups’ 2009 alt-rock hit doesn’t seem particularly well suited for a political jingle. The band certainly didn’t think so, sending the Romney campaign a cease-and-desist notice for using the Swoon single at an event. “We were very close to just letting this go because the irony was too good,” the L.A. alt-rockers said in a statement. “While he is inadvertently playing a song that describes his whole campaign, we doubt that ‘Panic Switch’ really sends the message he intends.”
Result: A Romney rep told the L.A. Times that the song was played “inadvertently” during set-up at a rally but was covered anyway under their blanket license. The campaign never played it again.
Al Green vs. Mitt Romney
Song: “Let’s Stay Together”
Controversy: After the Obama campaign released an ad that featured Mitt Romney singing “America the Beautiful,” Romney’s side retaliated with a spot in which Obama sings the Al Green classic “Let’s Stay Together.” Within a day, the ad, as well as footage of the original Obama performance, disappeared off YouTube, due to a copyright claim from BMG Rights Management on behalf of Green, an Obama supporter.
Result: YouTube restored the video after receiving an appeal letter from the Romney campaign, agreeing that it constituted fair use.
K’naan vs. Mitt Romney
Song: “Wavin’ Flag”
Controversy: The Somali-Canadian musician’s song, featuring assists from Will.i.am and David Guetta, gained traction in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and then took off even more when Coca-Cola used a version of it as the anthem of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. When Romney played it during a victory rally in Florida, K’naan was deluged with Twitter messages accusing him of selling out to a conservative politician. The musician threatened legal action against the Romney campaign, explaining, “I’m for immigrants. I’m for poor people, and they don’t seem to be what he’s endorsing.” He also added that he would “happily grant the Obama campaign use of my song without prejudice.”
Result: Romney reps insisted they had permission through blanket licenses purchased from ASCAP and BMI, but said they would stop using the song out of respect for K’naan’s views.
Eminem vs. New Zealand National Party
Song: “Lose Yourself”
Controversy: Eminem doesn’t usually involve himself with New Zealand politics, but last year the rapper and his publishing company filed a copyright infringement suit against the National Party after Prime Minister John Key used the hip-hop star’s “Lose Yourself” in a reelection campaign ad without permission.
Result: The National Party insisted they had obtained the right to use to the song through an Australian production company but stopped using the track. Nonetheless, Eminem is still seeking damages. The case was scheduled to go to court last February, but was put on hold; according to recent reports, it may be reset for any day now.
Dropkick Murphys vs. Scott Walker
When: January 2015
Song: “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.”
Controversy: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker walked out to the song at an event in Iowa for presidential hopefuls, and the Celtic punk band responded with one of the bluntest tweets ever: “@ScottWalker @GovWalker please stop using our music in any way. . . we literally hate you !!! Love, Dropkick Murphys.” It wasn’t the first time the group had spoken out against the politician. In 2011 the Boys from Beantown released the song “Take ‘Em Down” to express support for Wisconsin union workers, who were protesting a Walker budget bill that would have taken away their right to collective bargaining. And in 2012, then-Assembly speaker Jeff Fitzgerald walked out to “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” during the Wisconsin GOP convention, after which the group called him a “crony of anti-union governor Scott Walker” and said that his music choice was “like a white supremacist coming out to gangsta rap.”
Result: The band stated on its Facebook page that “this isn’t a legal issue to us – we’re not looking to sue someone,” but also said, “We feel that we have the right to ask to not be associated with certain events or people.” It remains to be seen whether Walker will continue to use the song.
Axwell and Ingrosso vs. Marco Rubio
When: April 2015
Song: “Something New”
Controversy: At his presidential campaign kickoff rally in Miami, Rubio walked off stage to the Swedish electronic duo’s dance-floor smash. The group shortly thereafter stated to Business Insider, “Axwell ^ Ingrosso didn’t give their permission for this song to be used and don’t want to be affiliated with a particular party during the upcoming presidential race.” Rubio is a noted hip-hop enthusiast but recently told TMZ he’s “gotten into” EDM, dropping names like David Guetta, Axwell and Ingrosso and the duo’s former outfit Swedish House Mafia.
Result: Axwell and Ingrosso have not indicated any plans to sue, and Rubio, no hip-hop flip-flop, assured TMZ that he’s “still a Nicki Minaj fan.”
Neil Young vs. Donald Trump
When: June 2015
Song: “Rockin’ in the Free World”
Controversy: On June 16th, the halls of Trump Tower reverberated with “Rockin’ in the Free World” – on repeat – when the Donald announced his plans to “be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” Young’s manager released a statement afterwards saying that Trump was “not authorized” to use the song, and that “Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President.” Trump reps, however, claimed they had permission to use the song through a licensing agreement with the performance-rights organization ASCAP.
Result: Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told Rolling Stone that the Republican candidate continues to be a Neil Young fan, regardless of the musician’s political views, and as such “will respect his wish and not use [‘Rockin’ in the Free World’] because it’s the right thing to do.” Presumably with Young’s approval, Sanders has begun using the song.