The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.

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Tracks on the Campaign Trail

Brendan Lordan, '17, Staff Writer

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While the 2016 presidential election has been almost nothing but firsts, there’s one tune that candidates have been singing for years: the tradition of the campaign song.

As political tension rises, we are reminded how important art is in reacting to and changing political behavior. From the protest songs of the ‘60s to hip-hop’s crusade against racism, music has always had the power to change hearts and minds. Politicians recognized that power more than 200 years ago. Campaign songs like the 1800 hit, “Adams and Liberty,” and the “Battle Cry of Freedom,” commissioned by Abraham Lincoln, united supporters and captured  the public’s attention.

Over time, as recording and celebrity culture took off, candidates began turning (often without permission) to popular music that would have a greater influence on voters—especially the prized young voters. The practice is often illegal, almost always immoral – and has become almost expected. In 1984, hoping to ride a sudden rise in American nationalism to a second term, President Ronald Reagan (among many others) chose to campaign with the title track of the newly released Bruce Springsteen album Born in the USA.

Ironically, the song’s message was in direct opposition to the patriotism it was used to inspire, critiquing American involvement in the Vietnam War. Springteen spoke out against Reagan and the others, but they refused to listen. Bob Dole in 1996, Pat Buchanan in 2000, and Donald Trump in 2016 all used the 1984 hit at rallies and in speeches and debates. Springsteen has criticized all three, especially Trump, telling Rolling Stone: “The republic is under siege by a moron.”

Other politicians have adapted popular music into parodies—again, without permission. 1996 presidential candidate Bob Dole had Isaac Hayes’ “Soul Man” rewritten as “Dole Man” until hit with a cease-and-desist order.

The Eagles’ Don Henley saw two songs satirized by 2010 Senate hopeful Chuck Devore: “All She Wants to Do is Dance” became “All She Wants to Do is Tax,” and “The Boys of Summer” became “The Hope of November.” Henley, who has a history of legally protecting his work, took Devore to court — one of a small group to do so. Artists’ opposition has been both moral and legal. Rock bands Journey, Survivor, and the Heavy all opposed Newt Gingrich’s use of their songs in his 2012 presidential bid—Journey and Survivor, on legal grounds; the Heavy, over the implication of its political support.

In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain drew fire from Jackson Browne, the Foo Fighters and ABBA for using their songs. The issue is not lim- ited to conservative candidates. Barack Obama was threatened with legal action for his music in the same campaign cycle, including Sam Moore’s “Hold On, I’m Coming.” The African-American R&B  singer said that while he was “thrilled” to see a person of color run for president, his vote was “a very private matter.”

Still, Trump may boast the most banned songs, from artists including R.E.M., Neil Young, Everlast, Adele, Aerosmith, Elton John, Queen, the Twisted Sisters, the Rolling Stones, and George Harrison. Most of the objections concern Trump’s politics.

The Stones have repeatedly asked Trump in vain to stop using their 1969 song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe told Trump to stop using “It’s The End of the World As We Know It” for his “moronic charade of a campaign.”

Music has always had an immense power to change behavior—and even the world. As citizens, voters, and music lovers, it is our job to stay sharp and not let the tradition of the campaign song fall flat through the improper use of art.

The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.
Tracks on the Campaign Trail