05.04.2016
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Rolling Stones Are Latest Rockers to Tell Politician 'Get Off My Song'

If a politician steals a song to steal an election, who fights back?

The Rolling Stones have told Donald Trump's campaign to cease and desist using two of their songs, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Start Me Up" at campaign events.

From the Guardian:

In a statement Wednesday, the rock band said they have not given permission to the Trump campaign to use their songs and “have requested that they cease all use immediately”.
A Trump campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment or say whether they had a license to play their songs.

When a politician uses a rock song to promote their campaign, it’s like the candidate is telling the world: “Look at me! I may be a straight-laced legislator—but I’m like a mullet: All business in front and all party in the back!”

The best false-rocker scenario is when a crotchety-old candidate uses a song of rebellion to prop up a flagging public image. It’s as if a campaign adviser picked the music as a sad attempt to make the politician seem hip and youthful and in-touch with the kids.

There’s been a long history of politicians appropriating rock songs without the artist’s permission.

Besides copyright issues, the main problem with a political candidate using a musician’s song without permission: It gives the impression that the artist somehow endorses the campaign. The majority of the time, it seems the artist and the campaigner have the polar opposite political views

Let’s take a look at five of our favorite circumstances when politicians had to be told to cease-and-desist:

1) Donald Trump, Steven Tyler, and “Dream On”

In October 2015, Donald Trump blasted the Aerosmith song “Dream On” to show how hip he was while campaigning in New Hampshire. Front man Steven Tyler got wind of this misuse and told the billionaire to stop. Classy and childish as always, The Donald responded by saying: “I have the legal right to use Steven Tyler’s song, he asked me not to. Have better one to take its place!”

Tyler then clarified that politicians need to respect and protect copyright laws. Never taking the high road, Trump fired back: “Steven Tyler got more publicity on his song request than he’s gotten in ten years. Good for him!”

“Dream On” wasn’t the first time Trump has pissed-off a musician. In September 2015, Michael Stipe of R.E.M pounced on Trump for campaigning to the tune of “It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” July saw Trump and Neil Young feuding over the use of “Rockin' in the Free World” at his rallies to pump up his supporters. The musical ploy backfired when Young announced he supported Bernie Sanders.

2) Ronald Reagan, Bruce Springsteen, and “Born in the USA”

The first rock star to twist his Jersey panties in a bundle over the use of his song for political gain was Bruce Springsteen. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan was running for a second term. He used “Born in the USA” to invigorate his campaign and pander to the youth of the day; it was an epic fail.

Springsteen, a staunch liberal, immediately insisted that the Reagan campaign stop using his tune. The irony is, “Born in the USA” is really a song about the horrible treatment of Vietnam vets and the sad effects of war on America. Evidently, Reagan and his advisors didn’t bother to read the lyrics.

3) John McCain, Dave Grohl, and “My Hero”

In 2008, John McCain used the Foo Fighters song “My Hero” to help boost his sad campaign run. This didn’t fly very well with Obama supporter Dave Grohl, who said: "It's frustrating and infuriating that someone who claims to speak for the American people would repeatedly show such little respect for creativity and intellectual property." Grohl went on to say that the song was “written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential"—which Grohl felt was the opposite of the McCain/Palin platform. The song was pulled. 

Jackson Browne also filed a suit against the McCain campaign for exploiting his song "Running on Empty" without consent. Brown sued and won the case. His lawyer stated: “The misappropriation of Jackson Browne's endorsement is entirely reprehensible, and I have no doubt that a jury will agree."

4) Sarah Palin, Heart, and “Barracuda”

While on the campaign trail in 2008, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin adopted the Heart song as her theme at the Republican National Convention. Response from Nancy Wilson of Heart: "I feel completely fucked over. Sarah Palin's views and values in no way represent us as American women."

Though Wilson sent a cease-and-desist letter, the McCain campaign kept using the song at rallies. It claimed the right to play because of a blanket ASCAP license.

5) Michele Bachmann, Katrina and the Waves, and “Walking on Sunshine”

In 2011, Michele Bachmann’s team played “Walking on Sunshine” at campaign events. The band Katrina and the Waves wanted to make clear that they did not endorse this candidate. In an issued statement, singer Katrina Leskanich was quoted: "If I disagree with the policies, opinions or platforms for use, I've no choice but to try and defend the song and prevent its misuse. Music can be both powerful and moving and sometimes even a little dangerous."

Tom Petty also filed a cease-and-desist letter against Bachmann attempting to stop her from using his song “American Girl” at rallies.

Bachmann kept using both songs.

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