Tom Petty Against the Machine

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It’s been over a decade since classic rocker Tom Petty sent a polite cease-and-desist to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, asking the Texas governor to quit playing the 1989 tune “I Won’t Back Down” at rallies and events. The musician believed his song’s inclusion created, “either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression [that the Bush campaign had been] endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true.”

As they gear up for the 2012 fray, right-wingers still haven’t gotten the message that the left-leaning singer/songwriter is just not that into them.

This time, the offending politico is tea party sweetheart Michele Bachmann, who played Petty’s song “American Girl” at her official campaign kick-off in Waterloo, Iowa. Petty will ask the Bachmann campaign “not to use that song,” NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell reported on Monday.

This isn’t the first instance of the misappropriation of pop music for political purposes:

  • In 2010, the Ayn Rand-worshipping prog-rock band Rush told Rand Paul’s senatorial campaign, “the public performance of Rush’s music is not licensed for political purposes” after they got word that Paul had blasted their music at his primary victory party at Bowling Green Country Club in Kentucky.
  • In early 2008, soul icon Sam Moore of Sam & Dave put an end to the Obama camp’s use of the duo’s 1966 classic “Hold On, I’m Comin'” stating that “I don’t want to get graphic with this, but how do you take a song about getting girls and turn it into a political thing? Somebody’s really desperate!” (Moore also has some serious conservative bona fides, having recorded some tracks for Lee Atwater’s boogie/R&B album Red Hot & Blue and allowed the ’96 Dole campaign to convert “Soul Man” into “I’m a Dole Man.”)
  • In 1984, unabashed liberals John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen were none-too-thrilled when the Reagan re-election team became enamored by their songs—especially because the campaign wildly misinterpreted their critical, non-jingoistic messages as Republican feel-good anthems.
  • It’s not exactly a campaign use, but Rage Against the Machine was not pleased when they heard their aggressive rap-metal was being used for “no-touch” torture at CIA “black sites” and military prisons.

As the push to November 2012 intensifies, let’s just hope the Obama campaign can escape the trend and resist the temptation to add Ted Nugent songs to the DNC playlist.


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