Music News

McCain Is Slammed for Using Another Unauthorized Song in His Campaign, and We Have Some Song Suggestions for the Republican Party

By Niki D’Andrea

The Foo Fighters say foo to John McCain using their song.

When will Republican politicians learn that most musicians are Democrats? At the very least, they could make a couple calls before using particular artists’ songs in their campaigns. That would prevent musicians getting bitchy about their songs being used without their permission by politicians they don’t endorse.

On October 8, the Foo Fighters issued a statement slamming Republican presidential nominee John McCain for using their song “My Hero” at his campaign rallies. “This isn’t the first time the McCain campaign has used a song without making any attempt to get approval or permission from the artist,” the statement reads. “It’s frustrating and infuriating that someone who claims to speak for the American people would repeatedly show such little respect for creativity and intellectual property. The saddest thing about this is that ‘My Hero’ was written as a celebration of the common man and his extraordinary potential. To have it appropriated without our knowledge and used in a manner that perverts the original sentiment of the lyric just tarnishes the song.”

McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, also used the 1977 Heart song “Barracuda” at campaign rallies throughout the month of September. According to this story at, the Republican party did obtain a license to use the song. But Heart founders Ann and Nancy Wilson openly expressed their displeasure; a statement from the Heart camp read, "The Republican campaign did not ask for permission to use the song, nor would they have been granted that permission."

At the Republican National Convention, Van Halen’s song “Right Now” played through the speakers. Van Halen’s publicist told MTV News a few hours later that the band had no idea their song was used for the convention, and "had they asked, permission would not have been granted."

McCain isn’t the first presidential hopeful to rub a rock star the wrong way. When Ronald Reagan was seeking re-election in 1984, he used Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the U.S.A.,” much to the chagrin of Springsteen, who was not a Reagan supporter. Add the fact that the lyrics of “Born in the U.S.A.” tell the harrowing story of an unemployed Vietnam vet, and Reagan’s choice of the song showed not only a disregard for intellectual property, but a propensity for entirely missing the point.

In 1996, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole appropriated the lyrics to the Isaac Hayes-penned “Soul Man” and turned it into “Dole Man.” Hayes objected to the bastardization of his song, and Dole had to drop his adopted theme. In 2004, George W. Bush tried to use the song “Still the One,” written by John Hall of the band Orleans. Hall is a Democrat, and also a New York congressman. He promptly blocked the Bush camp from using his song.

So what’s a good Republican candidate to do? Obviously, only so many candidates can use Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” (Reagan used it as one of his theme songs, and so did wrestler Hulk Hogan). We have a few suggestions for potential McCain/Palin campaign songs (provided the Republican party gets the proper permission first).

”Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent: Not only are the Nuge’s gun-loving views shared by Sarah Palin, but the lyrics seem sadly appropriate for McCain’s staunch agreement with the continued occupation of Iraq and U.S. imperialism, er, desire to spread democracy: “You know you can’t turn me ‘round/If your house gets in my way, baby/You know I’ll burn it down.”

”Daydream Believer” by The Monkees: This song is about an old dunderhead trying to seem young and hip. The original lyrics were: "You once thought of me as a white knight on a steed, Now you know how funky I can be.” It’s fitting for McCain, who claims to not spend any time on the Internet but called eBay “the future of the economy.” The lyrics also reference “a homecoming queen,” which sort of works for Palin, who won the Miss Wasilla pageant during her college days in the early ‘80s. Oh what can it mean, indeed.

”As Good as I Once Was” by Toby Keith: Although Keith considers himself “a conservative Democrat” and has recently praised Barack Obama, he’s got the kind of “Go get those commie bastards!” oomph so pervasive in old, stale American views (really, take a listen to “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue”). The chorus of this song is perfect for the campaign of a 72 year-old war veteran who invokes Reagan economics in the face of a massive U.S. financial crisis: “I ain’t as good as I once was/I got a few years on me now/But there was a time, back in my prime/When I could really lay it down.”

”Killer Queen” by Queen: Seriously, this song is so much more fitting for Sarah Palin than “Barracuda.” It doesn’t matter that Palin’s nickname was “Barracuda” on her high school basketball team (because Heart’s song is actually about a sleazy journalist who wrote lies about the Wilson sisters having a lesbian affair in the 70s). The lyrics to “Killer Queen” are perfect for Palin, whether you’ve seen those bogus photos of her shooting a gun in a bikini or not: “Gunpowder, Gelatin/Dynamite with a laser beam /Guaranteed to blow your mind, anytime/ Recommended at the price /Insatiable an appetite/Wanna try?”

”I Don’t Know” by Ozzy Osbourne: After watching Sarah Palin in the vice presidential debate and blundering through an interview with Katie Couric, this song’s a perfect fit. Asked to name a single specific Supreme Court decision besides Roe vs. Wade that she disagreed with, Palin couldn’t do so, instead prattling off a bunch of empty rhetoric about the many decisions that have been made throughout U.S. history and how people always disagree with some of them. Instead, Palin could have just flashed that self-confident smile of hers and recited some lyrics from the first verse of “I Don’t Know”: “How am I supposed to know/Hidden meanings that will never show/Fools and prophets from the past/Life's a stage and we're all in the cast.”

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea