Don’t play it again Sam (or Mitt or Newt)

By Alex Fiore

With the Illinois Primaries wrapping up Tuesday night, the nation became a little more engrossed in the political season.

During the countless baby-kissing, flag-waving and ticket-tape covered photo opportunities sure to follow as the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination chugs along, you’re sure to hear some familiar tunes in the background.

Unfortunately, there’s going to be a moment where you hear a song during a campaign and think to yourself, “I can’t believe that artist endorsed that candidate.”

Chances are, they probably didn’t. It needs to stop.

Semi-recent history is riddled with examples of presidential candidates appropriating popular songs for their campaign without permission, and it’s wrong.

Minnesota senator Michelle Bachmann was issued a cease and desist letter after her continued use of Tom Petty’s classic “American Girl”last summer. Petty was also miffed after eventual president George W. Bush used his song “I Won’t Back Down”during his 2004 campaign rallies.

Sarah Palin took the stage at the 2008 Republican National convention with Heart’s “Barracuda”playing.

The band was so upset it issued a statement saying, “Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women,” Heart said in a statement. “We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image. The song ‘Barracuda’ was written in the late Seventies as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women…while Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there’s irony in Republican strategists’ choice to make use of it there.”

Jackson Browne sued John McCain after the eventual loser of the 2008 election used “Running on Empty” during his campaign. McCain then went on to use John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses”before being told to stop again. (Doesn’t anyone ever pick a song they don’t play on the Drive?)

With the controversial nature of politics, it’s easy to see how these artists might be upset their songs are being used in connection with a political candidate they don’t support. Being associated with a particular candidate against their wishes might tarnish the image of an artist simply because the candidate’s people didn’t ask permission.

This is not to say music shouldn’t be used at all in connection with political campaigns. The very nature of music evokes powerful emotions and patriotism. Who can forget Whitney Houston’s moving rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” or Bruce Springsteen performing “We Shall Overcome” during Barack Obama’s campaign?

The difference here is that these songs were performed because the artists truly wanted to and supported the cause.

Artists need to sign off on their work being used in mass mediums like film and television, so why shouldn’t they be able to do the same for a highly publicized event like a presidential campaign?

Even though the examples I gave were of Republican candidates being asked to stop what they were doing, this issue crosses party lines.

It’s unfair to the artists to be grouped in with a candidate without their permission, and it needs to stop.