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A look at artists who have objected to Trump’s use of their songs

ByReiss Bowler

Oct 27, 2020

From classic American rockers to British artists to the estates of late legends, here’s a look at some of the musicians who have objected to Donald Trump’s use of their songs at campaign events.


Some classic rockers say they are not only against Trump with their music, the choice of songs is ironic or downright wrong. John Fogerty, who last week sent the campaign a cessation letter about his band Creedence Clearwater Revival’s use of “Fortunate Son”, said he was baffled by the use of a song that could have been written to beat Trump. Phil Collins sent the campaign a request to stop using ‘In the Air Tonight’ after it played at an Iowa rally this month. Many observers say it was an odd number to choose, given that the sky among the mostly maskless people at the rally could have spread the coronavirus. And just as he had with Ronald Reagan in 1984, in 2016 Bruce Springsteen objected to Trump shouting “ Born in the USA ” as a patriotic anthem, when it is actually a damning indictment of the treatment of Vietnamese vets.



Most musicians have stopped making legal threats, but a few have even sued for using their songs. Neil Young filed a lawsuit in August over the Trump campaign’s use of his music, including “ Rockin ‘in the Free World,’ ‘which he said he couldn’t consider a Trump theme song. Eddy Grant sued Trump in September for using his 1980s hit “Electric Avenue” in an animated video of the Trump campaign mocking his opponent Joe Biden.


The heirs of deceased artists have been just as quick as living musicians to object to Trump’s use of songs. Tom Petty’s wife and daughters, who had had a legal argument over the management of his estate, met in June to issue a statement condemning the use of the rocker’s “I Won’t Back Down” at meetings. Trump denounced. After “Purple Rain” was played at a Trump rally in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis in 2019, the late singer’s estate publicly condemned the use of the song, saying the campaign had previously agreed not to play it. Lawyers at the Leonard Cohen estate condemned the use of “Hallelujah” during the final of the Republican National Convention and said they had refused the organizers’ permission.


UK artists were just as good about their songs as their US counterparts. The Rolling Stones objected to the fact that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is regularly rotated at Trump rallies. They threatened to file a lawsuit in August, saying they had waived music licenses that would allow campaigns to legally play songs. When the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’ was played at the 2016 RNC, George Harrison’s heirs, who wrote the song, called it ‘offensive and against the wishes of George Harrison’s estate’. Adele made her objection clear when she learned that her songs, “Rolling in the Deep” and “Skyfall,” were playing at Trump rallies.


It’s mostly Baby Boomer favorites who have objected to Trump’s use of their music, but younger artists have also cried terribly, sometimes with foul language. Panic! At The Disco singer and songwriter Brendon Urie sent a profane tweet that ended with “you’re not invited, stop playing my song” in June after the Trump campaign played the hit “High Hopes” at a rally in Phoenix . Pharrell Williams sent a cessation letter after his song “Happy” was played at a Trump rally in 2018. He was especially upset that the event took place hours after a mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. And Rihanna demanded that Trump stop playing “Don’t Stop the Music” after the song was played at a rally in 2018.


Generation X bands were just as angry as everyone else about using their tunes. The Trump campaign played ‘Losing My Religion’, ‘Everybody Hurts’ and’ It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) ‘at rallies, much to the anger of the left-wing members of REM’ Please know that we do not endorse the use of our music by this con artist, ”tweeted bassist Mike Mills in January. And Axl Rose has tweeted his exasperation over Guns N ‘Roses songs, including’ Sweet Child O ‘Mine,’ which was used to entertain Trump rally-goers.