With so many Republican candidates announcing their bids for the presidency these days, one our most hallowed election-year rituals can’t be far behind. I refer, of course, to when fading musical acts attempt to prove their progressive bona fides by making a stink when a candidate they disagree with plays their music at a rally.
This wearying spectacle has become something of an epidemic over the past several elections. Tom Petty carped when Michele Bachmann played his ‘American Girl’ in 2012. That particular gambit has apparently joined ‘Mary Jane's Last Dance’ as one of Petty’s greatest hits – he also objected when George W. Bush used ‘I Won’t Back Down’ back in 2000. Woe unto the 2016 contender who plays 'Runnin’ Down a Dream' at a rally.
It’s not only Petty, of course. A member of Survivor went after both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney for inflicting ‘Eye of the Tiger’ on their audiences in 2012. Jackson Browne successfully sued John McCain for using (appropriately, in McCain’s case) ‘Running on Empty’ in 2008. And the list goes on…
This trend, of course, is yet more evidence of the relentless politicization of just about everything. But, lest we despair, there are two heartening examples of prominent musicians being, dare I say, ecumenical and tolerant when it comes to the political use of their music.
In 2008, Barack Obama used Brooks and Dunn’s ‘Only in America’ as something of a theme song, even though George W. Bush had employed the song in his 2000 campaign. Brooks and Dunn are anything but Democratic: The (sadly now retired) duo had even played at Bush’s first inauguration. Yet when Obama used the song, Messrs. Brooks and Dunn provided a master-class in humility and good sportsmanship. It’s, “very flattering to know our song crossed parties and potentially inspires all Americans,” said Kix Brooks.
A perhaps even more inspiring story is that of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. For several decades, Rush Limbaugh has used an instrumental version of ‘My City Was Gone’ as his bumper (i.e. intro) music. It’s safe to say that the outspoken Ms. Hynde, a prominent feminist and long-time PETA spokesman, is no dittohead. And Limbaugh, suffice it to say, is contemptuous of Hynde’s politics. Yet Chrissie Hynde has said she’s glad that Limbaugh uses the song. (Her parents are apparently fans of the program) Limbaugh, for his part, pays a generous annual fee, which is reportedly donated to PETA, for its use.
All of which is to say: Tom Petty could learn a valuable lesson in tolerance from Chrissie Hynde and Rush Limbaugh, of all people. He should consider their examples before the lawsuits (inevitably) start flying once again.