Five Presidential Candidates and the Pop Songs They Stole for the Campaign Trail
Mitt Romney's bid for the U.S. presidency was off to a rousing start last week with '80s hair-metal frontman David Coverdale going in on the Republican presidential hopeful. Turns out Romney used Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" at his campaign kickoff rally without the band's approval.
Something felt eerily familiar about this situation. And after a little research, Crossfade confirmed that there is a robust history of presidential candidates picking songs by artists who wish they hadn't.
5. Ronald Reagan vs. Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA"
In 1984, Republican president Ronald Reagan was seeking reelection at the same time Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA album was ripping up the charts. In a pop appeal to the American people, Reagan began referencing the album's title track in speeches. "Born In The USA" was anthemic and driving, and the chorus was a booming sing-along. But if he had taken a closer look at the lyrics, Ronnie might have realized that the Boss's jam was about working class disenchantment in post-Vietnam America. Everyone from Johnny Carson to Reagan's opponent, Walter Mondale, and even Springsteen himself, came out to assert that Bonzo was straight up missing the point.
4. Bill Clinton vs. Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop"
No band could better represent wily ol' Bill Clinton than Boomer-era, infidelity-lovin', feel-good party monsters Fleetwood Mac. I hear you can actually chop their breakthrough soft-rock album, Rumours, into tiny little pieces, and then snort the bugger to produce a high so teeth-clenchingly soaring that you start dressing like the band. Anyway, Mac vocalist Christine McVie initially objected to Clinton's campaign's use of the song. But when he was ultimately elected to the highest office in the land, the group reunited to perform the song at the President's inaugural gala.
3. George W. Bush vs. Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down"
For those of us who were lucky enough to be politically socialized during the dark, dumb Dubya ages, we have a lifetime of confusion and rage to look forward to. There's no way to reflect on the 43rd President without chanting "WTF" like it were some kind of transcendental mantra. In terms of policy -- and simple day-to-day living -- Lil Bush did a lot of stupid things during his tenure. One of them was thinking Tom Petty was going to be cool with jingo-izing his tune "I Won't Back Down" for the 2000 presidential run. Legend has it, Petty performed the song for Al Gore in a private concert, after the Presidential hopeful had conceded the election.
2. John McCain vs. Heart's "Barracuda"
Nothing was weirder than the first wave of Sarah Palin superfandom. First, we were shocked that 2008 Republican nominee John McCain had chosen a woman as his runningmate. Then we were shocked to learn she was practically illiterate and had also never seen a globe or map. Capitalizing on the nation's fascination with Palin's mythological small-town-girl narrative, the campaign began playing Heart's "Barracuda" in reference to Palin's high-school nickname, "Sarah Barracuda." Of course, Heart took objection and pointed out the irony in the campaign's selection, claiming that the song was about women rising above the subjugation of corporate culture.
1. Mitt Romney vs. Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again"
Which brings us to present day conservatives pilfering pop music for their campaigns. One has to wonder what raucous, party-centric hair metal has to do with the post-Mormon candidate and his quest for the Republican nomination. Oh yeah, the title. Do any of these candidates read the damn lyrics past the title?
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