For some reason, politicians never learn their lesson. And, unfortunately, since there tends to be a liberal vein running deep through the artistic community, this ends up being a predominantly Republican issue. When choosing a campaign song, instead of playing it safe and rooting through the Ted Nugent songbook ("Cat Scratch Fever" has got to be appropriate for somebody), they always try their luck with a song they actually like. Or, more to the point, one that they think their audiences will like.
They then, however, have to deal with the inevitable backlash that comes when the musician who created the song is woken up on his or her personal yacht and pulled from his or her mattress of gelatinized money to be told that some politician is trying to use their song to try to sell the idea of baby kickball or something to the masses.
It's happened more times than you can count, but these are three of the best examples…
In 1984, Ronald Reagan was informed by his staffers that there was a person named Bruce Springsteen who wrote a song called "Born in the USA" on a thing called a guitar. Reagan immediately started referring to Springsteen and his rhythm & blues in speeches, because obviously any song who states that they were born in the USA ad nauseum has to be about being hating foreigners and wanting to give tax breaks to the rich. There's no possibility at all that it can be about veterans of the war in Vietnam who returned to a country that had no use for them. No possibility at all.
In case you haven't heard, John McCain is a war hero. It's totally, totally true. Though — humble guy that McCain is — you'd never know that from one of his 2008 campaign rallies. Well, unless you saw one for 30 seconds. When it came time for McCain to choose a campaign song, he rightfully decided to keep things subtle. So, instead of playing "John McCain Was a Prisoner of War During Vietnam and Is Therefore a Better Person Than Barack Obama" by The John McCain Is a War Hero Singers, he decided to go with "My Hero" by the Foo Fighters. Unfortunately, the Foo Fighters did not care for the sudden uptick in Republican support.
Back when Sarah Palin was playing high school basketball, she played so hard on the court that she got the nickname "Sarah Barracuda." So, naturally, thirty years later, when she was a fresh-faced governor plucked from obscurity by a scared old man and placed before the nation as the Republican vice presidential candidate (it's still kind of hard to reconcile that happening, isn't it?) the classic rock anthem "Barracuda" by the female-led band Heart seemed like an obvious choice of a campaign song. It's badass, it rocks really hard, and it stands for a woman's ability to compete in a male-dominated field. Only problem is that Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart — unlike then-Governor Palin — actually stood up for women's rights and were less than pleased that their song was being used for a candidate they couldn't stand behind. So, they asked the McCain/Palin campaign to kindly stop using their song.
The McCain/Palin campaign told them to shove it.
You can find these songs, as well as nine million others on Rhapsody (which is currently offering a free 14 day trial).
Tags: Bruce Springsteen, John McCain, Music, Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin