Another day, another presidential nominee. This time, it was Donald Trump. You know, the one with the TV show (Does he still have a freaking TV show?), the hair, the billions of dollars, and the political experience of a day-old turnip? Yep, that’s the one.
His announcement was met with the predictable (but nonetheless amusing) mockery on social media and elsewhere around the internet. Whatever your political leanings, its hard to imagine Trump as anything other than a distracting sideshow to the actual circus that is the field of nominees.
But it wasn’t the hair or the bizarre ramblings that made Trump’s announcement special for me. Instead, it was his participation in one of my favorite all-time political traditions: using music written and recorded by an artist that would sooner cut off one of his or her own fingers than cast a vote for the politician using it.
I don’t know which candidate first played a song at a rally or campaign event only to later be told to knock it off, but there have been a lot. On this occasion, Mr. Trump played Neil Young’s 1989 track “Rockin’ in the Free World” at the official candidacy announcement, which Young almost immediately said Trump was “not authorized” to use. The humor with this one was actually twofold: not only is Young openly supporting Democrat Bernie Sanders for president, he’s also a Canadian citizen. That’s right, Trump kicked off his campaign to “Make America Great Again” with a song written by a Canuck. Shoulda checked his birth certificate.
The archetypal example of such bungling is probably Ronald Reagan’s use of Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 anthem “Born in the U.S.A.” In that case, the song’s seemingly joyous chorus was embraced by Reagan’s campaign team, despite the song’s verses detailing the psychological scars of a disillusioned Vietnam veteran:
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “son don’t you understand now”
Had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there he’s all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
Down in the shadow of penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go
Real cheerful stuff there, Boss.
Anyway, Springsteen told Reagan to stop playing “Born in the U.S.A.” at his campaign events and the incumbent president got egg on his face.
Reagan set the bar high by co-opting the music of one of America’s most beloved musicians, but he had nothing on fellow squinter (and Republican) George W. Bush, who was told by at least three musical artists to stop using their music during his two presidential campaigns. John Mellencamp (“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A”), Sting (“Brand New Day”), and Tom Petty (“I Won’t Back Down”) all asked Dubya to cease and desist. Well, Mellencamp and Sting asked; Petty threatened legal action (just as he did against Michelle Bachmann for playing “American Girl” at her
revivals campaign events).
Senator (and former presidential nominee) John McCain’s poison was Heart’s “Barracuda”, chosen – and I’m not making this up – as a reference to Sarah Palin’s high school nickname: “Sarah Barracuda.”
I don’t want to know either. McCain was also chastened by the Foo Fighters, whose “My Hero” he used without permission.
A little further down the political totem pole, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was told by the Dropkick Murphys (whose “Shipping Up to Boston” he played at an event) to stop playing their song because they “literally hated him!”
David Byrne of Talking Heads sued Florida Governor Charlie Crist for a million bucks over the use of “Road to Nowhere”.
Even the current Commander-in-Chief was asked by Sam Moore of Sam & Dave to not play the duo’s 1967 hit “Hold On (I’m Comin’). Moore later said he thought the song’s sexual undertones made no sense in a political context, which only goes to show that Sam Moore does not have all that clear a picture of American politics. Rowr.
Ahem. Anyway, this whole politics/rock ‘n’ roll thing ain’t really working out. So what’s a Trump to do? I shudder to think that something as silly as Trump’s nonexistent political acumen and entirely absent grasp of something as petty as “reality” would derail his presidential aspirations, but unless he gets his music game locked down soon, people are going to start noticing that other stuff. So Don, if I can call you Don… what’s that? I can’t call you Don under any circumstances? All right, cool. Well, um, Mr. Trump, then: here are some songs you might use to replace that ungrateful Canadian’s tune on your future campaign stops.
1. Anything by Ted Nugent. The Nuge is famous for his love of all things ‘Merican, and Mr. Trump, there may be nothing more ‘Merican than your brazen quest for material wealth and total disregard for anything that might be perceived as criticism.
2. “Power” by Kanye West. Yeah, I know that a song written by a guy who famously claimed that George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people may seem like a stretch for any Republican to use, but hear me out. Caitlyn Jenner has openly stated that she’s a Republican. Jenner and Kanye’s wife Kim are family. Yeezy can’t very well turn his back on family, right? Plus, the song is PERFECT, as it functions as a perfect description of what you want more than anything in the world. Look into it.
3. “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” by Pink Floyd. Again, I know the politics seem off, but I don’t see how somebody with your immigration stance could possibly pass this one up.
Give one of those a try, Trumpster, and tell me how it goes. My guess is we’ll have a lot of time to chat between now and November of 2016.
Oh, and if you were wondering, this is how you do it: