The Politics of Rock

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As we draw nearer to the Presidential election, the rhetoric and attacks flying back and forth between the McCain and Obama camps is intensifying. But the political candidates and their campaign teams are not the only ones who are out there in the public eye making their voices heard.

Joe Biden and Barrack Obama National campaigns in the past have traditionally been accompanied by public support from various celebrities, who, for one reason or another, are convinced that the rest of us really need to know who they are voting for. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but doesn’t this kind of activity seem to be cranked up a notch this time around?

I first started paying attention to this when the Wilson sisters of Heart complained about the McCain camp’s use of their hit song “Barracuda,” which was said to have been chosen because “Sarah Barracuda” was a nickname that Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin picked up in High School as a result of her aggressive style while playing sports.

Later we heard that Jackson Browne had his knickers in a twist over the use of his song “Running on Empty” as part of a McCain television advertisement.

In addition to those well-known rockers, by digging back just a little bit in history, we find that John Mellencamp asked the McCain campaign to stop using his music back around February.

Since then we’ve heard from Van Halen, who was not happy about the use of their song “Right now,” which was written during the “Van Hagar” days, and apparently did not present any problems for Sammy Hagar who thought it was just fine, but Hagar is known as a GOP supporter.

More recently, it seems that the Foo Fighters are angry with the McCain people over use of their song “My Hero.” In a statement the group said the following: "The saddest thing about this is that ‘My Hero’ was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential. To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song."

In response, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said: "The McCain-Palin campaign respects copyright. This campaign has obtained and paid for licenses from performing rights organizations, giving us permission to play millions of different songs, including ‘My Hero.’”

I guess that’s probably something that some famously politically active rockers are not too happy to hear, but if the McCain campaign did indeed follow the proper procedures and pay to use those songs (any appearance of doubt on my part is a result of the fact that we are dealing with politicians and their cronies here), it seems there is little that the flustered artists can do except whine to the press about the use of their material.

I guess it also explains why the McCain campaign continues to use many of these songs despite the requests from the Sarah Palin and John McCain artists who wrote them to stop.

But the vitriol that has been flowing freely from some artists in the direction of John McCain and his supporters is just one side of the story. There are a few artists out there who are very willingly lending their music, as well as their celebrity status to the causes of their chosen candidate.

Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel are very vocal supporters of Barrack Obama and have even been out performing in support of their candidate. Not to to be outdone, Jon Bon Jovi hosted a $38,000-a-plate dinner with Obama, although those of lesser means had the chance to opt for the more reasonable $2,300 ticket which did not include dinner with the Presidential candidate.

Speaking of supporters, most recently we heard from Alice Cooper, who is known as a Republican supporter, and has been quoted during an interview saying that he thinks Sarah Palin is “…totally a breath of fresh air. When they say she has no experience, maybe that’s what Washington needs. I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for. But in a shooting war, I want a pit bull, not a poodle. I’m gonna go for the hawk,” Cooper said.

There is certainly an element of the citizenry that is not too pleased with the attention and money that celebrities are lavishing on their candidate of choice. For example, a letter to a New Jersey newspaper from a reader makes her views on the subject quite clear.

Personally I tend to agree with the author of that letter, and I wish celebrities, who have a distinct advantage over the common citizen when it comes to getting the message out in support of the candidate, would keep private the choices they intend to make when they enter the voting both.

That is a message I would direct at both political parties (the only two we appear to be stuck with for eternity, by the way), since I am a true independent, and could go on at length about the problems I have with both Republicans and Democrats. However, this is Real Rock News and not a Washington Times or New York Times editorial column, so I will leave it at that.

What do you think? Does the political activism of celebrity rockers annoy you or do you see it simply as their right to free speech?


  1. Mike Kay October 14, 2008 at 7:28 am

    I too wish they would just shut up and sing. But because of their politics, I don’t even want to listen to them anymore. They would endorse any one who was running against a republican. Unfortunately they will influence the fat people in the stretch pants who read crap like the Enquirer and such.

  2. Real Rock News October 14, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Oh man, that last sentence put an image in my head that I’m not sure I am able to shake off!

    Thanks, Mike. LOL

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