Music by VICE

A Brief History of Musicians Telling Politicians (Republicans) to Fuck Off

God bless the epic slapdowns of politics.

by Dan Ozzi
02 July 2015, 4:30pm

Oh sweet Jesus, YES. Yesssssss. The most exciting part of the Presidential cycle is already upon us! No, not watching candidates’ televised debates to determine who is capable of embarrassing themselves the least, or finding out where they stand on issues that they will spend the next four years making no significant progress on, that crap is boring. We’re talking about the time-honored tradition of politicians getting put in their place by musicians.

You see, the road to the White House is paved with stump speeches requiring candidates to drive across this great nation, proving to the American public that they are neither Artificial Intelligence robot nor alien overlord. They want you to know they are capable of the having human emotions and are just like you, the sleeve-rolled, grease-stained working class of America. Hands get kissed, babies get shaken, it’s all very staged and boring. But in this attempt at appealing to the Average Joe, candidates will often incorporate this thing called “mu-sic” which the humans seem to love so much.

In their cavalier selection process of choosing entrance songs that appeal to us Whopper-eating Walmart monkeys of the United States, candidates will often get ahead of themselves and use songs they haven’t cleared with the artists. This is where things get hilarious. Once the artists catch wind of this, they’ll usually tell the offending politician, often publicly, to eat a pile of red, white, and blue shit.

This seems to happen most with Republican candidates on account of them being, you know, the slightly more soulless half of our two-party system. Here is a roundup of those situations in one convenient place so we may all collectively laugh at them for trying to express themselves creatively via a predominantly liberal medium.

Donald Trump vs. Neil Young

Most recently, make-believe Presidential candidate and guy who looks like a terminally ill person’s asshole, Donald Trump, made his all too symbolic entrance into a 2016 Presidential candidacy by descending an escalator into a pit of people who likely got $50 to pretend like they gave a shit about being there. He took the stage to Neil Young’s “Keep on Rockin’ in a Free World” and then proceded to launch his campaign for leader of the free world by calling Mexicans rapists. The Canadian musician and world’s only Pono Player owner took to Facebook to voice his disapproval of the song being used by Trump. Then, to add insult to injury, Young turned around and lent it to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. This would all be hilarious if Trump understood concepts that even your most inbred of dogs can grasp, like shame or remorse or when to stop applying bronzer.

Scott Walker vs. Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys’ “Shipping Up to Boston” a.k.a. that song from The Depaahhted, had already been used by America’s second most pathetic organization, the Boston Red Sox, every time they trotted out Jonathan Papelbon and pretended in vain that he was a Rivera-caliber closer. But when the holder of the number one spot, Republicans, tried to use it during Wisconsin governor (and maybe future Presidential candidate?) Scott Walker’s stump speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, the bagpipe-heavy punk band tweeted at him to stop it and to let him know that that they literally hate him.

The band did the same back in 2012 when Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Jeff Fitzgerald used the song. DKM was particularly pissed about that given that their history of supporting Wisconsin labor unions clashed with Fitzgerald’s anti-union, pro-being-a-dickbag stance. They likened it to “a white supremacist coming out to gangsta rap.” So unless you are Martin Scorsese, the Boston Red Sox, or that beer commercial that comes on every three goddamn minutes during baseball games, save yourself some trouble and stop using this song.

Sarah Palin vs. Heart

Let’s be honest with ourselves: Deep down in the darkest recesses of our minds, we all miss Sarah Palin. The former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaskan diplomat was a non-stop Schadenfreude factory, selflessly providing us with a near endless supply of gaffes, misfortunes, misnomers, and whatever it’s called when you can’t name a newspaper. She was the person you loved to point at on TV and laugh because it made you feel good to be smarter than somebody. Her career, of course, died a tragic and untimely death several years ago (RIP), but back when she was a semi-relevant running mate to John McCain, she used Heart’s song “Barracuda” on GOP Presidential nomination night—because that was her cool nickname, get it? Barracuda and Maverick, fighting together, just like in Top Gun! Anyway, you can probably guess where this is going, but the band didn’t care for that. Heart’s Nancy Wilson told Entertainment Weekly that her music had been misrepresented and that she felt “completely fucked over” by Sarah Palin. You and everyone else, Nancy.

Newt Gingrich vs. Survivor

The thrice married, real-life Peter Griffin, Newt Gingrich, ran for President on the not-at-all ironic family values platform and endorsed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. (It’s worth noting that in 2012, Gingrich came around on same sex marriage and urged fellow Republicans to endorse it.) But anyway, you didn’t come here to debate how marriage is defined. You came here to hear about politicians getting sued, which Gingrich was, by Survivor for using their famous “Eye of the Tiger” intro from Rocky III. Gingrich fought it, but, much like his Presidential campaigns, he gave up when he realized he didn’t have a chance in hell.

Michele Bachmann vs. Tom Petty and Katrina & The Waves

Michele Bachmann, whose dead-eyed stare is second only Steve Buscemi’s, pissed off two musicians in one week. The first was when she used Tom Petty’s “American Girl” at a speech in Iowa that initiated her 2012 Presidential run. After she received a cease and desist from Petty, she still played it the following day—29 seconds of it, possibly finding her way through some sort of fair use loophole. She followed it up with Katrina & The Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” because a Bachmann presidency would be like skipping along a glorious sunbeam! Lead singer Katrina Leskanich also unsurprisingly told Bachmann to stop. Bachmann ultimately lost the nomination, with voters seemingly not ready to embrace a candidate who called global warming “voodoo.” Maybe she should’ve played The Beatles’ “I’m Looking Through You.”

George W. Bush vs. Tom Petty

Speaking of Tom Petty, he also sent George W. Bush a cease and desist letter back in 2000 after Bush used his song “Won’t Back Down” on the campaign trail. We guess you could say Bush... backed down! LOL but no seriously he didn’t back down at all and was elected to office by fear-mongered morons twice and embroiled us in enough costly wars to set our country back by a half-century. But uh, that Tom Petty thing was pretty funny, huh? Support the troops. Mission accomplished. Never forget.

Silversun Pickups vs. Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney tried to use a Silversun Pickups song. End of joke.

John McCain vs. Foo Fighters and John Mellencamp and Jackson Browne

As John McCain’s political career entered its permanent death spiral in the fall of 2008, he made a last ditch attempt at appealing to the common man by playing common man rock music. He must’ve Googled “general rock music” because he started playing Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” on the campaign trail. Frontman Dave Grohl, who seems like the kind of guy whose wallet you could steal and he’d just sort of smile and shrug, got pretty pissed about it: "The saddest thing about this is that ‘My Hero’ was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential," he said in a statement. "To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song. We hope that the McCain campaign will do the right thing and stop using our song — and start asking artists' permission in general."

Wait, we’re not done with John McCain. Well, in a political sense, yes America is completely done with him, but for the purpose of this list, there’s more. He also used the ridiculously apt Jackson Browne song “Running on Empty.” Browne sued the McCain camp for using the 1977 hit and the two eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Still more misadventures in music rights for McCain! He also tried to use “Our Country” and “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp, an ardent Democrat. If you’re not going to look up the meanings behind these songs, for god’s sake, at least research the guy singing them.

Mike Huckabee vs. Boston

On his Presidential campaign trail (LOL), Mike Huckabee, who once said he believed Jay Z is pimping out Beyoncé, tried to use Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” the top song among basic randos at karaoke bars, right up there with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the band didn’t care for that. Frontman Tom Scholz, who endorsed Barack Obama, said in a statement: “Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for. By using my song, and my band’s name Boston, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I’ve been ripped off, dude!” Bummer because look how cool Huckabee looks playing bass:

Paul Ryan vs. Rage Against the Machine and Twisted Sister

In a New York Times profile, nine-year-old boy who got a toy weight set for his birthday, Paul Ryan, named Rage Against the Machine as one of his favorite bands. Guitarist Tom Morello snapped back with a lengthy op-ed in Rolling Stone, saying Ryan “is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn't understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn't understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine...I wonder what Ryan's favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of "Fuck the Police"? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!”

Ryan’s campaign also used Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” before frontman Dee Snider shot him down, too, saying: “There is almost nothing on which I agree with Paul Ryan, except perhaps the use of the P90X.”

Ronald Reagan vs. Bruce Springsteen

Politicians getting slapped down by musicians isn’t a new phenomenon. Patron Saint of the GOP Ronald Reagan, who raised taxes 11 times and tripled the federal deficit, once invoked Bruce Springsteen’s name in a re-election speech in 1984 in an attempt to appeal to the young working class. At the time, Springsteen was just a guy from New Jersey with a hit record, but this unsolicited endorsement forced him to be more politically minded and it launched a new side of him, one that thoughtfully articulated his politics. So Springsteen may not have sent Reagan a cease and desist letter, but he did do him one better—he spent the next 30 years of his popular career opposing him and politicians like him. Thanks, Gipper! And a quick note to any Presidential hopefuls looking to play "Born in the USA" to project a pro-America sentiment at yoru campaign rallies: You might want to look up what that song's actually about first.

Dan Ozzi will throw his vote away on a third party candidate. Follow him on Twitter.

Donald Trump
George Bush
Silversun Pickups
Rage Against The Machine
Sarah Palin
neil young
foo fighters
Ronald Reagan
Bruce Springsteen
Scott Walker
dropkick murphys
Tom Petty
John Mellencamp
mike huckabee
newt gingrich
michele bachman
katrina & the waves
mitt romney
john mccain
jackson browne
paul ryan
twisted sister