Paul Ryan vs Rage Against the Machine, and the Top 10 Musicians Who Stuck it to Politics


Lately, the news has reported a lot about the epic battles between politicians and musicians. This article will be looking at the issue with a bipartisan view but I should disclose that there are a lot more instances of Republicans getting in trouble. That shouldn't be surprising. Unless Republicans wanted to play pretty much only country, Kid Rock or Ted Nugent they should tread the other genres with care. Or maybe take the Thaddeus McCotter approach and play it yourself.

Rihanna has told us time and time again "please don't stop the music." But maybe she should've qualified that by saying everyone except for politicians. I don't blame anyone for wanting to jam at rallies. These type of events need some beats, they need music to get the people going! Everyone needs an anthem. Maybe, though, these politico types should ask permission from the artist before — so they don't get served.

For those about to ROCK, do so at your own risk. 

10. Obama vs. Sam & Dave: Barack Obama got some flak from soul man Sam Moore in 2008 for the use of Sam & Dave’s classic, “Hold On! I’m Coming.” The civil-rights activist who campaigned with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did write then Sen. Obama that he wanted to “wish you well in your quest for the nomination… [But] I have not agreed to endorse you for the highest office in our land… My vote is a very private matter between myself and the ballot box” and that he refused to publicly endorse any candidate.

9. Heart vs. Sarah Palin: Back in High School Palin's nickname was "Barracuda" so when she was running for VP she wanted to blast some Heart. However, this did not go over so well. "Sarah Palin's views and values in no way represent us as American women," Ann and Nancy Wilson told Entertainment Weekly. "We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image."

8. Cyndi Lauper vs. DNC: Cyndi Lauper complained about a Democratic National Committee ad with a negative message about Romney. She added that she was no supporter of Romney; she merely didn't want her comforting song “True Colors” associated with such negativity (The DNC yanked the ad.). 

7. Talking Heads vs. Charlie Crist: The best 2010 songwriter smack down came from Talking Heads’ David Byrne, who sued Florida Republican Senate candidate Charlie Crist over his unauthorized use of “Road to Nowhere.” Byrne won a settlement that included cash and a forced apology by Crist. On YouTube.

6. Broadway Producer David Merrick vs. Barry Goldwater:

Back in the 1964 presidential campaign Goldwater made a parody of the song "Hello Dolly" changing the lyrics to "Hello Barry." Merrick e, was not pleased with this "perversion" of his work and threatened to sue Goldwater. Incidentally however, Merrick permitted Lyndon Johnson to use the tune and change the lyric to "Hello Lyndon"... which kind of doesn't have the same ring to it.

5. Boston vs. Mike Huckabee: In the 2008 GOP Presidential primary campaign Huckabee was blasting "More than a Feeling" as his entrance song. However, this upset Boston's Tom Scholz, who wrote the song. Scholz wrote Huckabee a letter asking him to stop and Huckabee's rallies soon had no more of a feeling.

4. Romney vs. Silversun Pickups: Silversun Pickups had sent a cease and desist letter to Mitt Romney after he'd been playing their song, "Panic Switch," at campaign stops across the country. Which maybe is a blessing in disguise. I don't have any census data but I am willing to bet that there isn't a huge presence of indie-rock loving, hipster Republicans that would relate to Romney's choice of songs. It's pretty weird that Romney would choose this song because, as the band's lead singer/guitarist Brian Aubert said in a press release, "[The] irony was too good. While he is inadvertently playing a song that describes his whole campaign, we doubt that 'Panic Switch' really sends the message he intends."A rep from the Romney camp made a statement that the song was used at a rally during set-up and would never be used at a real Romney event. The song is however, covered in their licensing so if they do plan to woo those indie rockers with an ironic song choice the Silversun Pickups will have to deal.

3. Jackson Browne vs. McCain: McCain has a lot of musical haters out there. He got some attitude from ABBA, John Hall, Van Halen, Foo Fighters and John Mellencamp. But Jackson Browne actually sued McCain for using "Running on Empty" in a campaign commercial and a judge ruled in Browne's favor. The terms of the financial settlement were not disclosed.

2. Bruce Springsteen vs. Ronald Reagan: Ronald Reagan had a bad case of judging a song from its title. He co-opted the Boss' "Born in the U.S.A." for his reelection campaign. They thought the title and the rousing chorus made it a flag-waving nationalistic jam sesh. But listen to a verse or two and you realize its a reflection of patriotic disillusionment in post-Vietnam America. Not really what you wanted. On the campaign trail, Reagan was quoted as saying, "America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire: New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen." Springsteen, however, didn’t take that as a compliment, starting the first battle over a campaign song that has been replayed many times since.

1. Rage Against the Machine vs. Paul Ryan: There could have been an entire article on Ryan alone. He has just recently become the VP for the GOP ticket and he has been racking up angry artists. Twisted Sister's front man Dee Snider denounced Ryan playing the teen angst anthem "We're not Going to Take IT" and said the only thing he agreed with Ryan on is his P90X workouts. But the most painful musical rejection of all comes from one of Ryan's top favorite bands.

In Rolling Stone magazine Tom Morello lead guitarist of Rage Against the Machine said that Ryan listening to their music "amusing, because he’s the embodiment of the machine we rage against” He continued: “Don’t mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta ‘rage’ in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he’s not raging against is the privileged elite he’s groveling in front of for campaign contributions.”

This is number one because of the "ouch" factor. This has created a new fear for me. Having your favorite band call you out and say that you're not cool enough to listen to them. Please FloRida allow me to listen to your awesome music and continue to have a Good Feeling.  

All of these artists have been alive to fight their music being used for a message they didn't approve of, however what happens if you were a composer in the late 1700s? Ludwig von Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been co-opted by everyone from dictators to revolutionaries. Esteban Buch's book Beethoven's Ninth: A Political History chronicles the symphony's use in clashing political contexts from Hitler's birthday, to the deadly protests in China's Tiananmen Square, to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Maybe though you should cut your losses and admire your staying power?