For a party of big business, Republicans are showing a serious lapse of respect for certain kinds of property rights at their convention.
Lots of the music that has been presented at the Republican convention so far — either played by the house band of former Saturday Night Live musical director G.E. Smith, or played from their original popular recordings — has seemed very out of place for the GOP. And that’s putting it mildly.
In fact, many of these artists have publicly and repeatedly objected to their music being played by Republicans.
(Interestingly, G.E. Smith has said in the past that he’s not actually a Republican — nor even political at all — instead viewing this as a fun, very well-paying gig for a working musician.)
On Day Three, the band played the Neil Diamond classic “Sweet Caroline” — which, in fact, Diamond has said he named in honor of Caroline Kennedy. In later retellings, he has clarified that other factors were involved in writing it, such as needing a song title in time for a deadline, but that the young daughter of the late President Kennedy did provide some inspiration.
Also on the playlist Wednesday night: “My Sharona.” The man who wrote and sang that song, The Knack frontman Doug Fieger, passed away in 2010. Though he was not publicly active in politics, it might also be noted that his brother is a famous attorney and campaigner for social justice causes, Geoffrey Fieger, whose rather colorful public career also included becoming the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor of Michigan in 1998.
Another song, “Ring of Fire,” was performed by the house band with special guest country singer Chris Janson. The late Johnny Cash was in fact a beloved figure among progressives, for having protested the Vietnam War — even singing anti-war songs during an appearance at the Nixon White House — and his daughter Rosanne Cash has spoken of his deep opposition to the Iraq War late in his life.
And in a truly egregious insult, Janson closed out his country set by singing the chorus section of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” The Boss is an outspoken progressive who campaigned for John Kerry in 2004, and for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. The song — often sung only in the chorus sections by those who wrongly believe it to be a patriotic chant — is in fact about the downtrodden life of a Vietnam veteran, and his feelings of complete betrayal.
The house band has also played (multiple times) “Limelight” by Rush — a band that has long had a following among libertarians, due to the strong philosophical influences of Ayn Rand in the Canadian power trio’s early output. But people grow and change over time, and Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart has more recently said that this was a stage of life in his 20’s, a valuable one, but one from which he has further grown and learned.
In 2010, the band sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rand Paul, an avowed major fan of theirs, after he used “Tom Sawyer” for his Senate campaign. (And in 2012, they also sent a cease-and-desist notice to another “Rush” … Limbaugh, that is.)
But they still weren’t done with Rand Paul: In 2015, Peart publicly declared that as a new U.S. citizen he would never vote for Paul — and they’d even had to send another cease-and-desist order for Rand even quoting their anti-egalitarian classic “The Trees.” He even declared that Paul “hates women and brown people” — as do Republicans in general, Neil said. He also described former President George W. Bush as “an instrument of evil,” and denounced the GOP for “the whole health-care thing — denying mercy to suffering people? What?”
But perhaps the most flagrant abuse has been of the great Queen anthem, “We Are the Champions.”
A song created by a bisexual artist who died of AIDS complications might be an odd piece of music to be played at the Republican convention, but Donald has had no trouble stealing Freddie Mercury’s music.
Back in June, when the final primary ballots were cast, Donald celebrated by playing this song at his event that night.
Queen guitarist Brian May, who co-wrote much of Queen’s output alongside Freddie, posted a statement on his personal web site, demanding that their music be kept out of politics:
I’ve had an avalanche of complaints – some of which you can see in our ‘LETTERS’ page – about Donald Trump using our We Are The Champions track as his ‘theme’ song on USA TV. This is not an official Queen statement, but I can confirm that permission to use the track was neither sought nor given. We are taking advice on what steps we can take to ensure this use does not continue. Regardless of our views on Mr Trump’s platform, it has always been against our policy to allow Queen music to be used as a political campaigning tool. Our music embodies our own dreams and beliefs, but it is for all who care to listen and enjoy.
And so, on Monday night, Donald did it again — as he took the stage in a dramatic entrance more befitting of a pro wrestler than a world leader.
Queen responded the very next morning, in an official capacity:
An unauthorised use at the Republican Convention against our wishes – Queen
— Queen (@QueenWillRock) July 19, 2016
The band’s record company also revealed that they’ve been trying to stop Donald from playing the song, telling People magazine in a statement:
“Sony/ATV Music Publishing has never been asked by Mr. Trump, the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization for permission to use ‘We Are the Champions’ by Queen. On behalf of the band, we are frustrated by the repeated unauthorized use of the song after a previous request to desist, which has obviously been ignored by Mr. Trump and his campaign.”
Problem is, getting Donald to respect creative artists might be just as difficult as getting him to respect lots of other people — like women, racial minorities, the disabled, non-Christian religious groups. The list just goes on and on.