The feud this week between Real Estate mogul Donald Trump and singer Neil Young is not the first time musicians and presidential candidates have had creative differences. It’s a tale as old as politics – time and time again politicians have failed to request permission from rock and pop stars to play their music at campaign events.
Most often, the conflict really only crops up when the musical artists’ political views don’t align with the candidates pilfering their material.
It turns out for many musicians, their music represents more than just a good beat: They often consider their work emblematic to the beliefs they hold dear. As such, musical misuse has lead to a plethora of open letters, released statements and lawsuits.
1. Ronald Reagan vs. Bruce Springsteen
During Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign he used Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the U.S.A.”
During his speech, Reagan said, “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. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about.”
Soon after, however, Springsteen, a Democrat, requested Reagan to stop playing his music during his presidential campaigns.
2. George W. Bush vs. John Mellencamp
Rocker John Mellencamp lambasted President George W. Bush in his 2003 song, “To Washington,” three years after Bush used his song, “R.O.C.K. in the USA” to campaign with.
Lyrics of Mellencamp’s song called out Bush on a multitude of issues, such as the Iraq War and oil.
“What is the thought process to take a human’s life? What would be the reason to think that is right from heaven to Washington from Jesus Christ to Washington,” Mellencamp wrote.
Mellencamp was one of several artists who approached the Bush campaign and requested they stop playing his music.
3. John McCain and Sarah Palin vs. Heart
Nancy and Ann Wilson, from 70s rock band Heart, emailed a statement to the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008 denying permission to use their song “Barracuda.”
“The Republican campaign did not ask for permission to use the song, nor would they have been granted for permission,” they wrote.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a vice presidential candidate, used the song to enter rallies thanks to a school nickname of “Sarah Barracuda.”
When the campaign ignored their request and played the song again at the Republican National Convention, Heart again requested they stop.
“Sarah Palin’s views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song ‘Barracuda’ no longer be used to promote her image,” the pair wrote.
4. Rand Paul vs. Rush
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, used Rush’s song “Spirit of the Radio” during his senatorial campaign in 2010. He even quoted the band’s lyrics in his speeches.
“Glittering prizes, glittering prizes and endless compromises; shattering the illusion of integrity,” Paul said, pushing for ideological purity.
Rush’s attorney Robert Farmer requested the Paul campaign to pull the music out of his campaign. Farmer told Mother Jones the campaign never responded.
5. Michele Bachmann/George W. Bush vs. Tom Petty
Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, got in hot water in 2011 for using Tom Petty’s song “American Girl” to help her announce her presidential campaign. Petty’s management team promptly sent Bachmann’s campaign a cease-and-desist letter, according to Rolling Stone.
But President George W. Bush also ran afoul of Petty. The former president also got sent a letter asking him to stop using “I Won’t Back Down” during one of his presidential campaigns.
6. Rick Santorum vs. Black Sabbath, Venom, The WASP and Iron Maiden
Republican Rick Santorum started a different kind a feud with musical artists. Rather than getting reprimanded for showing an unsanctioned musical appreciation when he ran for president in 2012, he called out artists whose work he found offensive.
“If you listen to the radio today, many of these brand new, so-called heavy metal music bands like Black Sabbath, Venom, The WASP and Iron Maiden use satanic imagery to corrupt the minds of young people,” Santorum said during his campaign.
7. Scott Walker vs. Dropkick Murphys
Moments after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker used a song written by Boston-based band the Dropkick Murphys at January’s Iowa Freedom Summit, the rockers responded via Twitter.
“Please stop using our music in any way…we literally hate you!!!” they tweeted.
This wasn’t the first time Walker played one of the band’s tracks during his campaign – after discovering the misuse of their song, the Dropkick Murphys compared Walker to a “white supremacist coming out to gangsta rap.”
8. Charlie Crist vs. David Byrne
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist blared the song “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads without permission for his 2010 Senate campaign advertisements. Soon after, Crist found himself in trouble: David Byrne, founding member and songwriter of Talking Heads, sued the governor $1 million.
Crist later apologized for copyright infringement, and uploaded a video on YouTube acknowledging that it was wrong pledged that he would uphold the rights of artists and obtain license for any future campaigns.
9. Chris Christie vs. Bruce Springsteen
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has often spoken of his love of Bruce Springsteen, a native son of the Garden State. Springsteen, a Democrat, has not returned the affection.
Things came to a head when Springsteen appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” while Christie was fully embroiled in the “Bridgegate” controversy.
Fallon and Springsteen performed a rendition of Springsteen’s song “Born to Run” with parody lyrics lampooning Christie.
“We’ve got Wall Street masters stuck cheek to cheek … I’m stuck in Gov. Chris Christie’s Fort Lee New Jersey traffic jam,” they sang.
10. Mike Huckabee vs. Beyoncé
Former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee directed his criticism toward one of the most renowned iconic couples in the music industry – Beyoncé and Jay-Z – in his newly published book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.”
Huckabee called Beyoncé “incredibly talented” and Jay-Z a “shrewd businessman.”
But that wasn’t all he had to say. Huckabee said Beyoncé’s dance moves as something that should be “best left for the privacy of her bedroom,” and called her lyrics “obnoxious and toxic mental poison.”
11. Ted Cruz vs. John Lennon Fans
When Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president in March, he caused quite a stir of jokes on Twitter due to a sequence of lines he said in his speech, in which he repeatedly asked voters to “imagine” different scenarios.
For critics watching, it evoked liberal John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine” enough to make it meme fodder and Cruz was lambasted on Twitter.