Jackson Browne Prevails In McCain Campaign Lawsuit

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As some may recall, veteran rocker Jackson Browne was none-too-pleased when then-Presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign aired a television commercial that featured Browne’s hit song “Running on Empty.”  The use of that particular song was presumably intended to suggest that McCain’s Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, was touting energy policies that lacked substance.

There were other rockers crying foul during that time, including the Wilson sisters of Heart, Boston’s Tom Scholz, Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters and even – believe it or not – Survivor of “Eye of The Tiger” fame. None of them wanted their music associated with John McCain and his campaign for President.running-on-empty

Much of the hubbub was a result of music that was selected to be played inside large convention-style venues where the McCain campaign held rallies and other events. Although letters of protest were written and public statements were made regarding the use of material written by certain performers, using material at a campaign event does not appear to be as serious as using it for a television commercial. And Jackson Browne (and his lawyers) have the check to prove it.

The McCain campaign recently decided to settle the lawsuit filed by Browne when someone inside the McCain campaign organization decided that using Browne’s material for the commercial without his consent was OK. Maybe they looked at it as a calculated risk. One that was not calculated too carefully it seems.

As is normally the case in these situations, the dollar amount of the settlement is not being disclosed. We do know, however, that McCain and the Republican Party issued apologies to Browne as well as a promise to refrain from using Browne’s material in the future.

It appears that McCain’s legal team ran out of options after several unsuccessful attempts to have the case dismissed. I guess they didn’t feel too good about their chances taking it all the way to a trial and decided to offer a settlement to Browne to close the case and cut their losses.

At this point the legal scorecard appears to read: Rockers 1, politicians 0.


  1. Boston Publicist July 24, 2009 at 5:15 am

    This is incorrect. BOSTON did not have a dispute with Sen. McCain, it was Mike HUCKABEE that was using the Tom Scholz penned hit song “More Than A Feeling” without permission.

    The confusion was exasperated by Barry Goudreau, who was not signed to the original BOSTON record contract and who had not been a member of the band BOSTON since the 70s yet he appeared at campaign stops and appeared on a You Tube video holding himself out to be “of the band BOSTON.”

    Fortunately, Sen. Huckabee’s campaign settled with an apology. Here’s the original text:

    The following letter was sent to Governor Huckabee:

    February 14, 2008

    Dear Gov. Huckabee:

    It has come to my attention that your campaign’s use of my song More Than a Feeling and my band’s name BOSTON has resulted in a great deal of false information, which it now appears may exist permanently on the Internet.

    While I’m flattered that you are fond of my song, I’m shocked that you would use it and the name BOSTON to promote yourself without my consent.

    Your campaign’s use of More Than a Feeling, coupled with the representation of one of your supporters as a member “of BOSTON” clearly implies that the band BOSTON, and specifically one of its members, has endorsed your candidacy, neither of which is true.

    I wrote and arranged More Than a Feeling, engineered and produced the recording, and actually played all the guitars on that BOSTON hit as well as most of BOSTON’s songs, not the person holding a guitar in your promotion who identified himself as being “of BOSTON.” Your claim that this was “the guy who originally did it” is a bit mystifying since he never played on that recording, nor has he been “of BOSTON” since he left my band over a quarter century ago, after performing with us for only three years.

    BOSTON has never endorsed a political candidate, and with all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything BOSTON stands for. In fact, although I’m impressed you learned my bass guitar part on More Than a Feeling, I am an Obama supporter.

    While this may seem like a little thing to you, BOSTON has been my life’s work. I hold the trademark to the name and my reputation is inexorably tied to it.

    By using my song, and my band’s name BOSTON, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I’ve been ripped off, dude!

    The unfortunate misconceptions caused by your campaign now live indefinitely on Internet news sites and blog archives.

    As the “straight talk candidate,” I hope you will help undo the damage still being caused by this misleading use of BOSTON and More Than a Feeling.

    Still evolving,
    Tom Scholz for BOSTON

  2. Real Rock News July 24, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Indeed. Now I recall that it was Huckabee.

    I oftentimes have difficulty separating one politician from another, although I cannot imagine why. 🙂

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