There’s Always Lee Greenwood

In the latest example of a recurring phenomenon, a Republican pol utilizing hip music on the campaign trail has gotten slapped down by the artist involved. This is per Emmarie Huttemann at the New York Times Caucus blog:

Representative Paul D. Ryan may love Rage Against the Machine, but the feeling isn’t mutual.

Tom Morello, guitarist for the politically outspoken rap-metal band, attacked Mr. Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate in a searing editorial for Rolling Stone.

“Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades,” Mr. Morello said.

Mediate‘s Andrew Kirell reports that Ryan’s running-mate has had the same problem, as did John McCain in 2008:

Indie rock stalwarts Silversun Pickups have accused Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of illegally using their 2009 hit song “Panic Switch” on the campaign trail without their permission. Wednesday afternoon the band fired off a cease and desist letter to the campaign, demanding Romney discontinue use of any of their songs….

Note to Republicans: musicians tend to dislike you — whether that be for political reasons or for fan-pleasing purposes — so avoid playing their music at any point during a campaign event because you will likely get called out, and you will likely be embarrassed.

Notable musicians Jackson Browne, Foo Fighters, John Mellencamp, John Hall, and ABBA (?!?!) all demanded Sen. John McCain quit using their tunes during his 2008 campaign; the Wilson sisters from Heart famously reprimanded Sarah Palin for using “Barracuda” to promote herself that same year. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist was sued by his doppelgänger David Byrne for using a Talking Heads song in 2010. And, of course, George W. Bush made a fair amount of enemies in Mellencamp, Tom Petty, and Sting.

The whole phenomenon is a bit bizarre. Political event organizers probably don’t coordinate with actual candidates in figuring out how to get audiences all lathered up before The Maximum Leader appears. I’ll never forget attending a monster Election Eve Clinton-Gore rally just outside Atlanta in 1992, and gazing in awe at the spectacle of 100,000 excited Democrats shaking tiny American flags to the beat of John Lennon’s Black Panther-inspired (if somewhat ambivalently worded) “Power to the People,” as Clinton worked his way to the platform, leaving his introducer, my former boss Sam Nunn, up there doing the White Man Shuffle.

But clearly, if you are a Republican, better stick to Big & Rich or maybe even Lee Greenwood.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.