Musicians who oppose Donald Trump's use of their music

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A major aspect of Donald Trump's presidential election campaigns, in both his 2016 campaign, and his 2020 campaign, are his prominent and frequent political rallies. Below are musicians who have voiced opposition to their music being used at the rallies, or for other political purposes, and the actions they took in response to their use.


Adele stated that Trump did not have permission to use her songs "Rolling in the Deep" or "Skyfall" at Trump political rallies in 2016, and requested that her music not be used in any political campaigning.[1][2] Adele later endorsed Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, instead.[3]


Steven Tyler of Aerosmith demanded that Trump stop playing "Dream On" at Trump's political rallies in 2015.[4] In 2018, it happened again, with Tyler demanding Trump stop using another song, "Living on the Edge", at his political rallies. A cease and desist letter was sent both times.[5]

The Beatles[edit]

George Harrison's estate denounced the use of the Harrison-written Beatles song "Here Comes the Sun" after the Trump campaign used the song to introduce Ivanka Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention.[6] The estate noted that Trump did not have permission to use this song, but that they would consider allowing him to use the Harrison song "Beware of Darkness".[6]

Bruce Springsteen[edit]

Bruce Springsteen opposed Trump using his song "Born in the U.S.A." at Trump's political rallies in 2016.[7] Rather than take legal action, he openly announced his support for Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, and even campaigned in support of her. As a result, the song would instead get booed every time Trump would play it at rallies from that point on.[8]

Creedence Clearwater Revival[edit]

John Fogerty, the frontman for the band Creedence Clearwater Revival, has opposed Trump's use of the band's song "Fortunate Son". In October 2020, Fogerty announced he was sending a cease-and-desist letter to Trump, saying that Trump "is using my words and my voice to portray a message that I do not endorse".[9] Fogerty noted that it was quite the opposite - the song's lyrics were meant as a critique of how wealthy people are unfairly able to avoid the draft or pay their share of taxes.[10]

Eddy Grant[edit]

Eddy Grant issued a copyright complaint over Trump's use of his song "Electric Avenue" in a political video he tweeted. The video was taken down, and a lawsuit and cease and desist followed.[11]

Elton John[edit]

Elton John has opposed the use of his songs "Rocket Man" and "Tiny Dancer" at Trump political rallies in 2016.[12] John noted that while their political views were very different, it was not personal.[13] He believed that, as a British musician, his music had no place in US politics at all, and that someone like Ted Nugent was more appropriate.[14]

Guns N' Roses[edit]

Axl Rose opposed the use of Guns N' Roses cover of the Paul McCartney and Wings song "Live and Let Die" in a meatpacking plant where Trump refused to take the COVID-19 pandemic precaution of wearing a mask. In response, Rose created shirts with the phrase "Live N’ Let Die With COVID 45", with all proceeds going to the MusiCares charity.[15][16]

Leonard Cohen[edit]

On August 28, 2020, the Cohen estate issued a statement criticizing Trump's unauthorized use of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at the Republican National Convention. They said they specifically rejected permission for its use, and would have only realistically considered approving Cohen's song "You Want It Darker".[17]

Linkin Park[edit]

On July 18, 2020, Trump retweeted a fan-made re-election campaign video ad featuring a cover of Linkin Park's "In the End". Twitter received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice from the band's management company, Machine Shop Entertainment, and the video was pulled. Linkin Park followed up with a response, "Linkin Park did not and does not endorse Trump, nor authorize his organization to use any of our music. A cease and desist has been issued." The late lead singer, Chester Bennington, had before called Trump a "greater threat to the USA than terrorism."[18][19]

Luciano Pavarotti[edit]

Family members of Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti protested the use of his song "Nessun Dorma" at Trump's rallies (which ends with the chant "I will win".) Pavarotti's widow and three daughters objected, stating that Trump's views on immigration were incompatible with Pavarotti's efforts as United Nations Messenger of Peace, which had raised large amounts of money for the support of immigrants and refugees.[20]

Neil Young[edit]

Neil Young has indicated multiple times that he does not approve of the use of his song "Rockin' in the Free World" at Trump rallies, which has been done since 2015.[21] Young conceded he had no legal grounds to oppose the song's use, but in 2020 he wrote a scathing open letter directed at Trump that stated: "Every time 'Rockin’ in the Free World' or one of my songs is played at your rallies, I hope you hear my voice. Remember it is the voice of a tax-paying U.S. citizen who does not support you. Me."[22] He later objected to the use of the song in Trump's speech at Mount Rushmore on the Fourth of July of the same year.[23]


Nickelback indicated that they did not support Trump's use of their song "Photograph". When Trump tweeted a doctored version of the song and music video on Twitter, the band's record label, Warner Music Group, issued a copyright claim, leading to the video being taken down.[24] Sales of the real version of the song jumped over 500% in the days afterwards despite the takedown.[25]

Nico Vega[edit]

Nico Vega criticized a "fight for Trump" video, shared by President Donald Trump on twitter 20th December 2020, for using their song "Beast". "To be clear, Nico Vega does not support the use of our song 'Beast' in Trump's recent video, We have love and empathy for all people of all backgrounds, races and beliefs, and we feel sick how all Americans' fears and vulnerabilities have been exploited over the last four years, We will not participate in a form of propaganda that pits Americans against one another."[26] On December 23rd 2020 Billboard Magazine reported that Nico Vega dropped a 'Cease and Desist' Playlist on Spotify which listed all the songs and bands who had opposed Trump's use of their songs at rallies or in campaign videos. [27]

Panic! at the Disco[edit]

Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco demanded that Trump stop using his song "High Hopes" at Trump's political rallies in 2020, releasing a brief statement of "Donald Trump represents nothing we stand for...Dear Trump Campaign, F--- you. You're not invited. Stop playing my song. No thanks, Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco & company".[28]

Pharrell Williams[edit]

Pharrell Williams opposed Trump's playing of his song "Happy" at rallies, including one held just hours after the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Williams' legal team threatened legal action, claiming its use without permission copyright and trademark infringement.[29]

Phil Collins[edit]

Phil Collins' legal team sent a cease and desist order to Trump's campaign after the unauthorized use of "In the Air Tonight" at a rally at Des Moines, Iowa on October 14, 2020. [30]


The estate of Prince condemned Trump's use of his song "Purple Rain" at a rally in 2019. In response, the estate shared a letter from the Trump campaign from 2018 that had promised not to use Prince's music, because they had not received the rights from the estate, showing they had official documentation of acknowledgement that they did not have the rights to play the music.[31]


Brian May of Queen opposed Trump's use of "We Are the Champions" as his "theme song" while walking out to the Republican National Convention in 2016. He denounced its use as unauthorized, where permission was neither sought nor given, and that they were looking at taking further steps should the band's music be used any further by his campaign.[32]


R.E.M has opposed the use of their music by Trump on a number of occasions. In 2015, vocalist Michael Stipe voiced opposition of "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" at Trump rallies, stating "Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign."[33] In 2019, bassist Mike Mills spoke out about Trump's promotion of a video containing the unauthorized use of the song "Everybody Hurts", urging Twitter to take it down, which it eventually did.[34] Later in 2020, Mills threatened legal action over using "Everybody Hurts" and "Losing My Religion" at Trump's rallies.[35]


Rihanna threatened legal action against Trump for the unauthorized use of her song "Don't Stop the Music" at Trump rallies in 2018. Her legal team released a comment that Rihanna has no association or affiliation with Trump, and she did not support his campaign.[36]

The Rolling Stones[edit]

Both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones oppose Trump's use of the song "You Can't Always Get What You Want". The band sent him cease and desist letters about its use in 2016, and upon Trump using it again in June 2020, the band teamed up with Broadcast Music, Inc. to threaten legal action if the song is used again.[37][38]

Tom Petty[edit]

The family of Tom Petty denounced Trump's use of the song "I Won't Back Down" at political rallies in 2020.[39] The family sent the campaign a cease and desist letter, stating that the song was written for the "underdog" and "common man", and that Trump did not represent either.[40]

Village People[edit]

In June 2020 Village People frontman Victor Willis asked that Trump no longer use any of his music at his rallies, particularly the songs "Macho Man" and "Y.M.C.A."[41]

After a cease-and-desist order by Willis, usage continued. Scorpio Music, Village People's label, are considering legal action against Trump for using "Y.M.C.A." at his rallies.[42]

The White Stripes[edit]

Following a political ad for the Trump campaign using the song "Seven Nation Army" in October 2016, Jack White, lead singer of The White Stripes and owner of the record label Third Man Records, meet with his former wife and drummer, Meg White. The White Stripes, who separated 5 years earlier, came back together to stat that they did not give permission for Trump to use their music, nor were they implying their support for him. Shortly after, Third Man Records asked Trump not too use The White Stripes, or any of Third Man Records material for his rallies.[43][44] In the weeks following, they also released merchandise referencing their final studio album Icky Thump, renaming it "Icky Trump", and adding altered lyrics related to the ideologies that appeared to come from Trump and his supporters off the song "Icky Thump".[45]


  1. ^ Tran, Mark; Jamieson, Amber (February 1, 2016). "Adele tells Donald Trump to stop pinching her songs for his campaign". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  2. ^ Savage, Mark (February 1, 2016). "Adele distances herself from Trump". BBC News. Archived from the original on March 28, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  3. ^ Davis, Lindsay. "Adele explains why she doesn't support Trump, we bet he's upset". Mashable. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  4. ^ "Aerosmith frontman asks Trump campaign to stop using song". CBS News. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  5. ^ "Steven Tyler demands President Trump stop playing Aerosmith music at rallies". CBS News. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel (July 22, 2016). "George Harrison Estate Blasts Trump's 'Here Comes the Sun' Use at RNC". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  7. ^ Taylor, Trey. "Bruce Springsteen Releases Anti-Trump Anthem 'That's What Makes Us Great'". Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  8. ^ "Trump fans now booing Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA"". News. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  9. ^ Balk, Tim (October 17, 2020). "John Fogerty says he is sending cease-and-desist letter over Trump's use of 'Fortunate Son'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 19, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  10. ^ Pitofsky, Marina (October 17, 2020). "Musician John Fogerty issues cease-and-desist order over Trump use of 'Fortunate Son'". The Hill. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  11. ^ "Twitter removes video from Trump tweet after complaint from 'Electric Avenue' singer". NBC News.
  12. ^ "Sir Elton John slams Donald Trump for using music without permission". PinkNews. February 2, 2016. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  13. ^ Petridis, Alexis (February 7, 2016). "Elton John: 'Our kids aren't stuck in a mansion. We go to Pizza Hut'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  14. ^ Giles, Jeff. "Rolling Stones and Elton John Say Trump Campaign Is Using Their Songs Without Permission". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  15. ^ Legaspi, Althea (May 14, 2020). "Guns N' Roses Slam Trump With 'Live N' Let Die With COVID 45′ Shirt". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  16. ^ Moreau, Jordan (May 14, 2020). "Guns N' Roses Tears Into Trump With 'Live N' Let Die With COVID 45′ Shirt". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  17. ^ Kreps, Daniel (August 28, 2020). "Leonard Cohen Estate 'Exploring Legal Options' After RNC 'Hallelujah' Use". Rolling Stone.
  18. ^ Kreps, Daniel (July 19, 2020). "Linkin Park Issue Cease and Desist After 'In the End' Appears in Trump Video". Rolling Stone.
  19. ^ Parker, Lyndsey. "Linkin Park succeeds in getting fan-made Trump campaign ad pulled from Twitter". Yahoo Entertainment. Retrieved July 18, 2020.
  20. ^ Cooper, Michael (July 22, 2016). "Luciano Pavarotti's Family Wants Him Off Donald Trump's Soundtrack". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  21. ^ McClellan, Jennifer. "Neil Young says President Trump is 'a disgrace to my country' in scathing open letter". USA Today. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  22. ^ Greene, Andy (February 19, 2020). "Neil Young Pens Open Letter to Donald Trump: 'You Are a Disgrace to My Country'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  23. ^ Ali, Rasha. "Neil Young is 'not ok' with Donald Trump using his music at Mount Rushmore event". USA Today. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  24. ^ "Twitter removes video from Trump tweet using Nickelback's 'Photograph' over copyright violation". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  25. ^ "Nickelback Downloads Shot Up by 569% After President Trump's 'Photograph' Tweet". Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  26. ^ "Nico Vega Slams Use of Its Song 'Beast' in 'Fight for Trump' Video Shared by President". Newsweek. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  27. ^ "Nico Vega Members Unveil 'Cease & Desist' Playlist for Donald Trump". Billboard. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  28. ^ "Panic! At The Disco's Brendon Urie Demands Trump Campaign Stop Playing Their Songs at Rallies". People. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  29. ^ "Pharrell Williams Sends Trump Legal Threat Letter for Playing 'Happy' After Synagogue Shooting". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  30. ^ "Phil Collins Hits Trump with Cease and Desist Order After Playing 'In the Air Tonight'". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  31. ^ "Prince's Estate Condemns Trump's Use Of 'Purple Rain' At Campaign Rally". NPR. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  32. ^ Reed, Ryan (July 19, 2016). "Queen's Brian May Denies Donald Trump Usage of Band's Music". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  33. ^ Yan, Holly. "R.E.M. bashes Trump, Cruz for using 'It's the End of the World' - CNNPolitics". CNN. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  34. ^ "R.E.M. get Trump's "Everybody Hurts" video pulled from Twitter". Consequence of Sound. February 16, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  35. ^ Lee, Alicia. "It may be the end of Trump using R.E.M. songs at his rallies (as we know it)". CNN. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  36. ^ Kreps, Daniel (November 6, 2018). "Rihanna Sends Cease-and-Desist After Songs Played at Trump Rally". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  37. ^ Robb, David (June 28, 2020). "BMI Warns Donald Trump Campaign To Stop Playing Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" At Rallies – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  38. ^ "Rolling Stones Protest Trump Using Their Music at Rally, Threaten Lawsuit". Billboard. June 27, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  39. ^ "Tom Petty's family wants Trump to stop playing 'I Won't Back Down' at rallies". Los Angeles Times. June 22, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  40. ^ Munro, Scott (June 22, 2020). "Tom Petty's family slap Donald Trump with cease and desist notice". Classic Rock Magazine. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  41. ^ Willis, Victor. "If Trump orders the U.S. military to fire on his own citizens (on U.S. soil)..." Retrieved September 13, 2020 – via Facebook.
  42. ^ Spocchia, Gino. "Trump campaign faces legal action after refusing to stop playing YMCA". The Independent. Retrieved November 8, 2020.
  43. ^ Roskopp, Jack. "The White Stripes band together to stick it to Trump". Euclid Media Group, LLC. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  44. ^ Haddad, Ken. "The White Stripes 'disgusted' by use of their song in Trumps campaign video". Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  45. ^ Young, Alex. "The White Stripes are now selling 'Icky Trump' t-shirts". consequence. Retrieved June 14, 2021.