A rough mix: When musicians say no to politicians

Politicians can sometimes get an embarrassing reprimand if they pick the wrong artists' song

Donlad Trump, Iowa,

Image: Kiichiro Sato / AP/Press Association Images

Politics and music often go hand in hand, with protest song and social commentary often elevating an artists' work to a higher level - but it's not always such an easy relationship between the two.

Adele has told Donald Trump he's not to use her songs, and in doing so she continues a long tradition of artists' lashing out as politicians for using their work - and in the process possibly making it seem like the band have endorsed the political message. A risk that can backfire badly for the politicians.

Here's five examples of when politics and music met, and the mix was all off.

Adele V Donald Trump

The latest in a long line of schisms between artists and political hopefuls - Adele has told the billionaire that he's to hold off on playing her tracks. Trump has been using "Rolling in the Deep" and the "Skyfall" theme tune at his rallies, and Adele has asked him to stop.

“Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning,” Adele's spokesman said.

The UK singer is the latest artist to object to Trump using her songs, with Aerosmyth, REM and Neil Young all saying they wanted the property tycoon to desist from using their work to further his message.

Bruce Springsteen V Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan set his sights on re-election in 1984 with Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to run’ booming across America as the soundtrack to his victory. But Reagan didn’t count on one thing though – Springsteen was not a political fan, and was none too happy to see his work used to promote the Republican president.

The Boss duly asked the Reagan campaign to drop his hit from their playlist - and was then forced to explain his decision.

It not only embarrassed Reagan, it awoke Springsteen. Admitting beforehand that he had possibly only voted once, Springsteen found himself forced to come out on a political issue and take a side, and in doing so inadvertently become a political figure for his generation.

MGMT V The President of France

This one was less about the politics, and more about the principle. Or the pay.

Pop duo MGMT got wind that Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) – the party of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy - were using the group’s hit song “Kids” at the party’s national congress, and in a couple of online videos.

Such aggression could not stand, and so the American duo went full tilt at the most powerful man in France. The French President wasn’t overly concerned it would seem, offering a paltry one euro as a token payment for their troubles.

This offer was, perhaps unsurprisingly, not appreciated by the New York based artists.

A short legal duel ensued – running at the same time as the UMP looked to tighten laws on online music piracy – before Sarkozy and co. paid out €30,000 in compensation. 

Tom Petty V George Bush

Tom Petty asked the two-time US President to skip his “I won't back down” during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Eight years later, when Hillary Clinton came to ask if she could use the very same track for her own tilt at the White House Petty had no objections.

Snow Patrol say YES

Bands don’t always say no, however. When the Yes Equality team went looking for a song to become the signature of their campaign in the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum, they turned to Snow Patrol’s ‘Just Say Yes’ – and the band enthusiastically agreed, with lead singer Gary Lightbody even recording a special video message for use in the campaign.

Everybody V John McCain

When Republican presidential nominee John McCain began his campaign for election – where he eventually lost out to Barack Obama – he probably didn’t realise quite how unpopular he was in the musical community. 

When McCain entered the stage, a classic rock tune played and, it seemed, somebody sued.

Outraging everyone from classic rockers Van Halen to the Foo Fighters, the McCain campaign found itself forced to pull several tracks from their campaign playlist.