Donald Trump campaign’s music choices cause more controversy after ban on using songs from the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Tom Petty | South China Morning Post
Supporters wait in line to enter a rally held by US President Donald Trump in Freeland, Michigan, the US. The Rolling Stones and Neil Young have reacted angrily to their songs being played at his campaign rallies. Photo: Getty Images
Supporters wait in line to enter a rally held by US President Donald Trump in Freeland, Michigan, the US. The Rolling Stones and Neil Young have reacted angrily to their songs being played at his campaign rallies. Photo: Getty Images
Music

Donald Trump campaign’s music choices cause more controversy after ban on using songs from the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Tom Petty

  • Creedence Clearwater Revival song Fortunate Son, played at a Trump rally last week, was likely intended to criticise people like the US president
  • The Rolling Stones threatened Trump with a lawsuit in June for using their song You Can’t Always Get What You Want at the end of his campaign rallies

Topic |   Music
Supporters wait in line to enter a rally held by US President Donald Trump in Freeland, Michigan, the US. The Rolling Stones and Neil Young have reacted angrily to their songs being played at his campaign rallies. Photo: Getty Images
Supporters wait in line to enter a rally held by US President Donald Trump in Freeland, Michigan, the US. The Rolling Stones and Neil Young have reacted angrily to their songs being played at his campaign rallies. Photo: Getty Images

US President Donald Trump arrived at a rally in the state of Michigan last week to the Creedence Clearwater Revival song Fortunate Son – a curious choice for a wealthy heir who avoided the Vietnam draft by receiving five medical deferrals.

“Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand. Lord, don’t they help themselves, y’all,” the song goes, later adding in the chorus: “I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no.”

It caught the attention of the song’s writer, John Fogerty, who said he was confused about why Trump – of all people – would play the song at his events.

“It’s a song I could have written now, and so I find it confusing, I would say, that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies when in fact, it seems like he is probably the fortunate son,” Fogerty said in a video posted on Instagram.

The 1969 hit is the latest addition to an incongruous and evolving playlist that Trump’s campaign has developed for his rallies and speeches.

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And Fogerty’s reaction to the campaign’s choice of Fortunate Son adds to the controversy surrounding Trump’s musical score, which has at times been altered after artists have objected to the Republican borrowing their songs.

The Rolling Stones even threatened to sue the campaign
for using You Can’t Always Get What You Want as exit music at rallies. The campaign replaced it. Lately, Trump has been leaving the stage to the 1970s disco hit YMCA by the Village People – and the president has even been seen almost, but not quite, dancing to the tune.

The Trump campaign and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The musical choices for Trump’s events suggest he is a creature of habit: the same songs are generally played over and over, whether at a campaign rally or a presidential event.

His rally mainstay is the patriotic tune God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood, who occasionally appears at the events to sing it live.

The Village People’s YMCA and Macho Man are song favourites played at Trump campaign rallies recently. Photo: Getty Images
The Village People’s YMCA and Macho Man are song favourites played at Trump campaign rallies recently. Photo: Getty Images
Democrat
Joe Biden
does not hold large campaign rallies, drawing less attention to his playlists. The Democratic convention made liberal use of Bruce Springsteen songs and featured a number of hit artists, including performances by singers
Billie Eilish
, Jennifer Hudson, Leon Bridges, John Legend and the rapper Common.
In addition to the Stones, Neil Young and the estate of Tom Petty have publicly objected to the Trump campaign dipping into their catalogues. The rock band
Guns N’ Roses
has mocked Trump for using one of its songs. The Village People have not objected to Trump’s regular use of their songs, including YMCA and Macho Man.

YMCA is everybody’s anthem and go-to song for fun,” a spokesperson for the band said in a statement attributed to YMCA writer Victor Willis. “As for the president’s use, I have not granted permission for use at his rallies because permission is not required.”

“If I were a Trump hater maybe I’d sue him simply out of spite,” Willis added. “I am not, and I’m not going to have my lawyers sue the president. But he should at least do the YMCA dance while he is at it.”

The Trump campaign has a “political entities licence” with BMI, a music rights management company, that authorises the use of millions of songs, according to a BMI spokesperson.

“There is a provision, however, that allows BMI to exclude musical works from the licence if a songwriter or publisher objects to its use by a campaign,” BMI said.

Guns N’ Roses perform at the Download Festival in Britain’s Donington Park. The rock band has mocked Trump for using one of its songs. Photo: Getty Images
Guns N’ Roses perform at the Download Festival in Britain’s Donington Park. The rock band has mocked Trump for using one of its songs. Photo: Getty Images

The Rolling Stones filed such an objection. Trump had played You Can’t Always Get What You Want at the conclusion of his rallies until June.

Trump’s music choices have regularly raised eyebrows. In May, Trump’s team played Live and Let Die, by Guns N’ Roses, as he toured a factory manufacturing masks at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The band responded by trolling Trump with a new T-shirt.

Young sued the president’s campaign after it played one of his songs at rallies, noting that he had objected since 2015 to Trump’s use of his catalogue.

A Guns N’ Roses T-shirt poking fun at Trump and his poor response to Covid-19. Photo: Twitter/@gunsnroses
A Guns N’ Roses T-shirt poking fun at Trump and his poor response to Covid-19. Photo: Twitter/@gunsnroses

And when Trump resumed his campaign rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, following the pandemic shutdown, his choice of Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down sparked a cease-and-desist notice from the artist’s family.

“Both the late Tom Petty and his family stand against racism and discrimination of any kind,” the family said in a statement. “Tom Petty would never want a song used for a campaign of hate.”

As for Fogerty, he said in his statement that Trump’s June march across Lafayette Square, across from the White House, to hold a Bible in front of a church damaged in police brutality protests was emblematic of the kind of people Fortunate Son was intended to criticise.

John Fogerty, formerly of Creedence Clearwater Revival, performs in Washington. The band’s song Fortunate Son was used at a Trump rally in Michigan last week. Photo: Getty Images
John Fogerty, formerly of Creedence Clearwater Revival, performs in Washington. The band’s song Fortunate Son was used at a Trump rally in Michigan last week. Photo: Getty Images

“The very first lines of Fortunate Son is, some folks are born to wave the flag, oh they’re red white and blue, but when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’, they point the cannon at you,” Fogerty said.

“Well, that’s exactly what happened in Lafayette Park when the president decided to take a walk across the park – he cleared out the area using federal troops so that he could stand in front of St John’s Church with a Bible.”

But Fogerty stopped short of asking that Trump cease using the song.

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