Music can express broad themes much better than most politicians ever could. It’s one reason why candidates use songs to rally supporters and push forward what they consider to be the main sentiments of their campaigns.
But current and past political campaigns have run into trouble for using certain songs. At different times, performers have objected to the use of their creations on legal as well as ideological grounds. The following are some examples of both instances.
“There is almost nothing [Ryan] stands for that I agree with except the use of the P90X,” Snider told Talking Points Memo. Ryan spokesman Brandon Buck responded on Thursday with a one-sentence email that stated: “We’re Not Gonna Play It anymore.”
In another case involving Ryan, when the Wisconsin representative described himself this month as a fan of the openly political Rage Against the Machine, the band’s guitarist was none too pleased.
“Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing,” Tom Morello told Rolling Stone magazine, “because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.”
A lawyer for indie rock band Silversun Pickups sent the Romney campaign a cease-and-desist letter last week after a song of theirs, “Panic Switch,” was played at a Romney campaign event. The Republican presidential candidate’s campaign agreed not to use the song again.
Sam Moore, one half of the soul duo Sam & Dave, requested then-candidate Barack Obama stop using the 1966 classic “Hold On! I’m Coming” in 2008. He did not claim copyright infringement; rather, he declared that he had not decided to endorse Obama.
Jackson Browne sued the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, the Ohio Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee over the use of the 1977 song “Running on Empty” in a political ad. The suit was eventually settled in July 2009 and the defendants issued a joint apology.
In June 2011, Tom Petty asked former Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann’s election team to stop using the song “American Girl,” which was featured at her campaign kickoff. Bachmann’s campaign used snippets of the song several more times.
The 1970s Heart hit “Barracuda” was heard after Sarah Palin’s speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention. The song quickly became tied to her vice presidential run, after it was revealed that she was given that nickname as a high school basketball player.
Heart members Ann and Nancy Wilson denounced the use of their song in a statement on EW.com.
“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image,” the statement read.
Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” was the former president’s signature song during the 1992 campaign. They did not appear to mind, however — the feuding band reunited to perform at his inaugural gala on Jan. 19, 1993.
The song “The Spirit of Radio” by Canadian rock trio Rush was featured in the Republican Senate candidate’s rallies in 2010. They did not claim their music was being misrepresented, but rather that the campaign had not paid for its use.
“This is not a political issue -- this is a copyright issue,” the band’s lawyer, Robert Farmer, said. “We would do this no matter who it is.”
The former Republican governor of Florida was sued by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne for using the song “Road to Nowhere” in a 2011 campaign ad. The $1 million suit was settled the next year, but Crist had to record a video apology as part of the deal.
During his 1984 reelection campaign, President Reagan name-checked Bruce Springsteen and the “message of hope” in his songs. Reagan’s team used the anthemic “Born in the U.S.A.” as the campaign’s signature tune, even though its lyrics were not a jingoistic appeal, but a lament on the struggles of veterans in the post-Vietnam era.
More recently, Springsteen has publicly supported President Obama. His recession-era song, “We Take Care of Our Own,” is one of the reelection campaign’s featured anthems.