If you haven’t been paying attention the last 18 months, the election season is upon us once again. And with all of the interest in the two candidates this time around, seemingly everything about them and their campaigns ends up under the microscope, including their campaign music.
The Republicans have always had a tougher time with this, as it’s no secret that the music industry tends to swing more liberal when it comes to the issues and candidates they support. In 1984, Ronald Reagan’s use of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” during his re-election campaign landed him a cease and desist from The Boss himself. Not to be outdone, George W. Bush’s campaign met a similar fate from Tom Petty in 2000 for using the classic “I Won’t Back Down,” a song which Petty played for Vice President Gore the night he conceded to Bush.
As for the Democrats, their relationship with the music community has been a lot cozier. In 1992, Bill Clinton not only used Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic “Don’t Stop” throughout his presidential campaign, he also managed to reunite them to play it live at his 1993 inaugural ball. In 2004, Senator John Kerry took it a step further with the Vote For Change Tour. Taking place in the last two months before the general election, the Vote For Change Tour enlisted such A-List talent as the Dave Matthews Band, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., and Pearl Jam to criss-cross swing states like Ohio, Florida and Michigan, playing to packed arenas and raising millions of dollars for the Presidential Campaign. And although Kerry’s presidential bid ultimately failed, the tour forever changed the way music and politics worked together.
This year’s campaign has proven to be no different, with an eclectic lineup of artists lining up to support Senator Obama’s campaign with star-studded private events (i.e., Barbara Streisand) and massive public concerts (i.e., Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jay-Z, The Dead and the Allman Brothers). In addition, the Black Eyed Peas will i. am created a music video on youtube that became an instant phenomenon, clocking in at over ten million hits online.
While Senator McCain has been received a little cooler reception from the artists he uses on the campaign trail (i.e., Heart, Jackson Browne) he does have the support of John Rich (of Big and Rich fame), who not only supports his candidacy, he even wrote his campaign song and played it at the Republican National Convention.
Regardless of who wins this coming election, we know we can always count on our candidates to use songs, images and music videos to connect with their supporters…whether the artists like it or not.