The daughters of the late singer-songwriter Oscar Brown Jr. said Monday that President Donald Trump is twisting the lyrics of their father’s song titled, “The Snake” for politics.
“Oscar Brown Jr.’s words are being stolen to promote his hate message and intolerance,” Africa Brown told CNN’s Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight.” “And it’s absolutely wrong.”
The song tells the story of a woman who takes in a frozen snake she finds on her way to work. After the snake is nursed back to health, it bites the woman and kills her.
Trump uses the song as an allegory to immigration law, suggesting that immigrants who come to the United States in search of a better life and help may end up hurting the country in the end.
“The elephant in the room is that Trump is the living embodiment of the snake that my father wrote about in that song,” Brown said.
“It’s a political agenda that deals with separatism, racism, sexism, and it’s kind of thing that’s polar opposite to what Oscar Brown Jr. was about,” said Maggie Brown, daughter of Oscar Brown Jr. “And so, to actually quote his words verbatim every time, pulling it out of his breast pocket as if it’s this coveted thing that makes him a rock star.”
Lyrics from the song were a staple of Trump’s 2016 campaign and were regularly read at events to raucous applause as he ran on a hardline immigration platform.
Use of the song has long been controversial.
Brown, who died in 2005, wrote it in 1963 based on “The Farmer and the Viper,” one of Aesop’s fables. The moral of the story is that kindness can be betrayed.
The sisters told Lemon that they have sent cease-and desist letters, but Trump could claim he’s not violating copyright law, by citing fair use.
Africa Brown added that if her father was alive today, he would not be a supporter of Trump’s policies.
“He always worked with all people of color,” she said. “He was never against immigrants. … He’s attacking people of brown color and my father supported people all the time of all color.”
Africa stressed that their father was a “great jazz musician, a poet, an activist (and) a writer.”
(“The Snake”) wasn’t all he wrote,” Brown said.
The sisters went on to recite another Brown Jr.’s song titled, “A New Generation.”
“A New Generation is now on the scene, a new generation not ugly or mean,” Africa and Maggie Brown said. “We’re standing for right, demanding fair play for everyone and we just won’t have it any other way.”
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this story.