Will politicians never learn that you can't co-opt some aging rocker's music without consequences? Lawyers for the 1970s power band Rush have ordered Tea Party candidate Rand Paul to stop playing their song "The Spirit of Radio" to amp up rallies. (Listen to Rand Paul recite Rush lyrics at an event.) The Canadian trio and the Kentucky Senate candidate both have a fondness for libertarian ideas and Ayn Rand, but business is business, says Rush attorney Robert Farmer: "This is not a political issue — this is a copyright issue. We would do this no matter who it is." Here are some other candidates who ran afoul of their chosen song.
Heart vs. Sarah Palin
Sarah "Barracuda" Palin used the song to exit her big speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, and Heart sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson were not amused. The McCain campaign got a cease-and-desist notice, and Ann Wilson sent a blistering note to Entertainment Weekly highlighting the "irony" of the GOPer's choice: "Sarah Palin's views and values in no way represent us as American women.... ["Barracuda"] was written in the late '70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women..."
Talking Heads vs. Charlie Crist
Song: "Road to Nowhere"
Frontman David Byrne sued Crist in May for using the song in a commercial against opponent Marco Rubio. He's seeking $1 million in damages. Crist pulled the ad, but Byrne says "the damage had already been done by it being out there. People that I knew had seen it." The Steve Miller Band asked Rubio to stop using "Take the Money and Run" to attack Crist, but didn't sue.
Foo Fighters, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, and Van Halen vs. John McCain
Songs: "My Hero"; "Our Country" and "Pink Houses"; "Running on Empty"; "Right Now"
McCain is the most remarkable repeat-offender in this arena. All of these performers told John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign to stop playing their songs, with Browne suing McCain and the Ohio Republican Party for $75,000 in damages. Other artists who sent cease-and-desist orders to McCain include ABBA, Chuck Berry, John Hall, comedian Mike Myers, and Frankie Valli.
Sam & Dave vs. Barack Obama
Song: "Hold On, I'm Comin'"
Soul legend Sam Moore told Obama to stop using the song at his campaign rallies. Moore said he wasn't endorsing anybody in the race. (In an interesting twist, however, Moore rewrote and re-recorded the Sam & Dave hit "Soul Man" as "Dole Man," used by Republican Bob Dole's campaign... until the song's publisher threatened a suit).
Tom Petty vs. George W. Bush
Song: "I Won't Back Down"
Petty threatened to sue Bush during the 2000 campaign if he didn't stop using the song, since he believed it constituted an endorsement. Bush's campaign at first resisted, then agreed to stop. Petty then played the song at the house of Bush's rival, Al Gore, moments after Gore conceded the fraught election; Tipper Gore played drums.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Israel has only two choices: Eliminate the Palestinians or make peace
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- 9 things you probably didn't know about the moon
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Why America is duty bound to help Iraqi Christians
- 10 burning questions you've always wanted to ask about investing
- 10 things you need to know today: July 22, 2014
Subscribe to the Week