If you wrote a song that got immensely popular, and a politician not of your liking decided to use it in his campaign, do you have the right to demand he cease and desist? The answer is, yes.
Seems that both sides of the political aisle are getting some ink about disgruntled musicians who are tired of having their work attached to causes they don’t believe in. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan caught some flack from Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister (“We’re not gonna take it”), Silversun Pickups (“Panic Switch”), Philomena Lynott, mother of deceased songwriter Philip Lynott of Thin Lizzy fame (“The boys are back in town”) and Tim Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Morello went even further when he found out GOP vice presidential candidate Ryan was a huge fan of his band. He wrote an editorial for Rolling Stone online entitled “‘Paul Ryan Is the Embodiment of the Machine Our Music Rages Against.”
And that’s just the Republican presidential duo. The opposite side of the ticket has its own musical detractors. Who could forget Ted Nugent’s comments last month that some claimed were veiled threats? Nugent likens Obama to evil and Romney to good and wonders what the country will be like with four more years. Unlike the above musicians, Kid Rock is thrilled that Romney is using his anthem “Born Free,” but clearly would not be if Obama had claimed it as his own. The musician took a swipe against Obama a recent concert in Tampa, calling him a liar on stage. Even Gene Simmons, frontman for Kiss, says he regrets voting for the president. No word yet whether the Romney-Ryan ticket will be playing vintage Kiss tunes as they stump for their candidacy around the country.
Music has been inextricably tied to politics in this country since it was founded, whether it be campaign songs written specifically for the candidate (“Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” President Harrison), a popular tune of the time (“Happy days are here again,” FDR)or rally calls. And the legal fallout for doing so without the musician’s permission also has a long history. Moral of the story: Ask before you play.