President Donald Trump isn’t the first politician to offend performers by using their music at campaign events, but he might be the most maligned due to his enduring audacity to play whatever he wants during them, despite the often very vocal calls to cease from the song’s composers.
Recent weeks have seen the “Trump 2020” campaign kickoff in earnest, despite a nationwide pandemic, with the president squarely focused on rallying his base with music from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Journey and Neil Young among others. More than a few of those have threatened legal action in an attempt to make him stop, most recently the Stones, but it’s also an effort that thus far has proven futile.
Young, exasperated by Trump’s continued usage of “Rockin’ in the Free World,” “Like a Hurricane” and “Cowgirl in the Sand,” took to his official website last week to pen an open letter expressing his disdain.
“Although I have repeatedly asked you to please not use my music because it indicates that I support your agenda, you have always played my songs anyway at your gatherings, with no regard for my rights, even calling me names on Twitter,” Young wrote. “I did notice that you played my music at your latest rally in Dakota despite my previous requests.”
The Canadian born singer/songwriter, who became a U.S. citizen earlier this year, said he would not take legal action against Trump due to the president being in charge of the response to coronavirus and not wanting to be a distraction during the crisis, but added that it is his right to sue.
The Rolling Stones aren’t feeling quite as magnanimous, clearly tired of Trump playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – which frontman Mick Jagger told the BBC in 2018 was a “very odd” song choice – they’ve opted to take decidedly legal action. Late last month, the legendary UK outfit threw down the proverbial gauntlet in conjunction with their music rights management representatives, BMI.
“This could be the last time President Donald Trump uses Stones songs,” the band said in a statement during the last weekend of June. “Despite cease & desist directives to Donald Trump in the past, the Rolling Stones are taking further steps to exclude him using their songs at any of his future political campaigning.”
“The Stones’ legal team is working with BMI,” the directive continued. “BMI has notified the Trump campaign on behalf of the Stones that the unauthorized use of their songs will constitute a breach of its licensing agreement. If Donald Trump disregards the exclusion and persists, then he would face a lawsuit for breaking the embargo and playing music that has not been licensed.”
Like the Stones and Young, the families of Tom Petty and George Harrison, R.E.M., Adele, Elton John, Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose, Queen, Aerosmith and Elton John have all spoken out against Trump playing the respective music to which they rightfully lay claim. At press time, there was no set day for Trump’s next campaign rally. A date in Portsmouth, N.H. was cancelled last weekend, supposedly because of fears over a tropical storm that never manifested in the area. Campaign officials said it would be rescheduled within the next couple weeks. It remains to be seen whether the president changes up his playlist.