NPR logo Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

When Barack Obama took the stage in Des Moines to deliver his impassioned Iowa caucus victory speech, U2's song "City of Blinding Lights" preceded him. On the same night, John Edwards' address to his supporters was also paired with a U2 song, "Pride (In The Name of Love)". Since when has U2 become the band to sum up American sentiment? Or is it just that they are one of the biggest bands in the world and summing up the zeitgeist is part of their job? I guess with Led Zeppelin's "Lemon Song" not exactly getting the right message across and Rush a little tricky to dance to, U2 is the only monolithic band to embody that perfect blend of informed-yet-cool. And with Bono himself probably the most electable man in any number of countries, it's not a bad choice to align yourself with someone so universally loved. But it is noteworthy that U2's ubiquity has transformed their songs into ones that are both non-partisan and non-threatening, which at least in the aforementioned contexts skirts a little close to non-music.

There is nothing like politics and politicians employing songs as a force for musical atrophy. Even though politicians might inspire some great tunes (imagine 1980's hardcore without Reagan or recent Springsteen, Steve Earle, or Arcade Fire albums minus Bush II et al as inspiration), they are less successful at marrying music with their own image or agenda. It's a tricky process indeed. We're not talking about a benign Celebrity Playlist on iTunes, wherein people can admire the esoteric tastes of Nicholas Cage, or confirm their instinct that they and Michael Cera were meant for each other based on a mutual fondness for the Microphones. And it is more serious than the song one chooses as a cellphone ring, that 15-second personal ad broadcast a few times a day. Instead, a candidate's theme song is a little bit more like a tattoo; some people won't care or even notice it at all, others will think it really sums up who they are and what they stand for, and the final category of people will be slightly offended by their lack of taste.

And anthems do matter. Sure, they matter a lot less than the messages or the men or woman themselves. But in a time where pop and political culture, highbrow and lowbrow, public and private are conflated to the point of being indistinguishable, a candidate's venture into the realm of personal expression via music is bound to get noticed.

The title of Frank Rich's Op-Ed piece in yesterday's New York Times referred to Bill Clinton's theme song from his 1992 campaign, Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" (though the Rich piece was about Obama and Huckabee, perhaps a dig at the current Clinton presidential candidate, who might not embody quite as much hope for tomorrow). Whatever the case may be, the song in question is one of the least interesting tracks off of the Rumors album; it's a blithe song full of more disillusionment than hope. It should be noted that on the record, "Don't Stop" is immediately followed by "Go Your Own Way", which doesn't exactly speak of unity or unification, and paints "tomorrow" as a much bleaker day.

And there have been much bigger gaffes than candidate's merely picking feel good tunes, those sonic versions of BenGay. Some of you might recall when Ronald Reagan thought Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" was nothing more than a jingoistic anthem exalting American values and pride. Or in 1996, when Bob Dole changed the lyrics of Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" to, you guessed it, "Dole Man". This clever (?) idea was executed with neither permission nor clearance from the copyright owners, who sent the campaign a letter urging them to stop the use of the song, which they did. But the more egregious act in the case of "Dole Man" was Dole's assumption that a song like "Soul Man" has or never had a any cultural significance beyond its being a staple on the oldies stations.

Yet what do we expect from Presidential candidates? I mean, above everything else, do they have to have good taste in music? No, it's certainly not a requirement. In fact, maybe the less the candidates get nearer to our own tastes, the better. How strange, for instance, if Spoon's "The Way We Get By" was the soundtrack to Hillary Clinton's stump speech. And the further the candidates' beliefs get from our own, the less we want to know that they might actually share our cultural tastes. Like if "The Greatest" by Cat Power accompanied Mitt Romney wherever he went.

This is true also with a candidate's supporters. We'd like to think that our favorite bands, especially those who ostensibly share our political outlooks, have ideologically similar fans. Yet I'm sure followers of Franz Ferdinand or Modest Mouse vote on both sides of the aisle, which is why music is better at uniting people than politicians.

So, since music does transcend politics, I propose that we help these candidates find songs that actually do embody the messages they espouse. Any suggestions?

But where I draw the line with music and politicians is seeing Mike Huckabee playing bass. If that guy ever joins the White Stripes on stage I will either give up this blogging gig, or vote for him. That, after all, is the power of music.



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I'd vote for any candiate who has "Lemon Song" has his/her theme song. And I'd campaign for a candidate who played with the White Stripes. Or at least donate $20. Maybe I could decide who to vote for next month if the candidates would post their ITunes playlists.

Sent by Laura E. | 10:28 AM | 1-7-2008

It's actually kind of annoying having all these people that obviously "don't get it" (these politicians a lot of songs of today is about) try to connect with younger generations through music. Music binds or starts many of my friendships but to hear some lame politician using it as a tool to assimilate their name with a song or anthem pretty much ruins a song. For a band like U2 which only had a handful of decent songs in my eyes, there's not big loss. So I'd rather have them stick with lame radio top 40 songs and just ignore it as I hear it. It just reminds me of any other annoying song I hear in a restaurant or shopping centre and tune it out. Which could have the adverse effect the said politician was going for in the first place.

None the less, I'm addicted to this blog and only wish for more frequent updates. Also, I read Carrie's review of Rock Band and totally loved what she wrote, it summed up my view of this Guitar Hero generation to a point. But that's totally off topic.

Although the famous opener to that 1994 classic Dookie, "Burnout" pretty much sums up my feelings towards politics. I'd absolutely love for a candidate to run with that high powered apathetic anthem.

Sent by Kevin McCallister | 10:29 AM | 1-7-2008

I would love to see Fred Thompson use The Misfits'- "Where Eagles Dare". The title alone sounds adequately patriotic and the chorus is a mantra all the GOP need to be repeating if they want to get elected.- "I ain't no Godd@mn son of a bitch".

Sent by thecolonel | 10:41 AM | 1-7-2008

I think what might bother U2 more than the blatant misinterpretation of their lyrics ("In the Name of Love" is about MLK's assassination, after all) is, by their use in these events, making them unthreatening and blase. They are far from it, and it is a shame (though somewhat amusing) to see good music misused in such a way.

Sent by jayme | 10:47 AM | 1-7-2008

i just want to see ron paul play a wicked drum solo.

Sent by jacob | 11:29 AM | 1-7-2008

Ron Paul = Beck's "Hell Yes"

Dennis Kucinich = R.E.M.'s "I've Been High"

Hillary Clinton = The Pipettes "Just be Yourself, Baby"

Rudy Giuliani = Smashing Pumpkins' "Tales of a Scorched Earth"

Barack Obama = Rufus Wainwright's "Rebel Prince"

John McCain = Cat Power's "He War"

John Edwards = Radiohead's "How I Made My Millions"

Sam Brownback = Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand"

Howard Dean in '04 = Magnetic Fields' "Chicken With Its Head Cut Off"

Larry Craig = tossup among the following:
PJ Harvey's "The Darker Days of Me and Him"
Sufjan Stevens' "A Good Man is Hard to Find"
Pixies' "Bone Machine"

Current commander-in-chief = Spandau Ballet's "Only When You Leave"

Sent by Hoainam | 11:58 AM | 1-7-2008

Guiliani - Wilco, "I'm a Wheel"

2 minutes of nonsense followed by the refrain, "I will turn on you."

Sent by ljc | 12:01 PM | 1-7-2008

Huckabee needs Huey Lewis' "Hip To Be Square", if only because I can see every evangelical supporter thinking they're being mildly rebellious by sort of rocking along with him

Sent by tim j | 12:28 PM | 1-7-2008

i would like to see mary timony and dennis kucinich collaborate on a song/music video. i can't explain why but i have a strong desire to see them riding on horses together, past ancient castles...etc.

p.s. if huckabee wins i'm moving to canada.

Sent by nikki | 12:45 PM | 1-7-2008

I think they should all adopt that old Eagles anthem, "You Can't Hide Your Lyin' Eyes."

As long as wealthy individuals and corporations continue to enjoy the right of financing political campaigns as an expression of their right to "free speech," whether Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dumb gets elected makes very little difference. Once in office, the candidate's promises to the electorate go out the window and (s)he serves the special interests that put him or her in power.

At least we've reached a point where I think it's unlikely that we can elect a Tweedle Dumber.

Paul -

Sent by Paul M Martin | 12:45 PM | 1-7-2008

I think LCD Soundsystem's "North American Scum" is really the only appropriate choice...for all the candidates.

Sent by larrylove | 1:56 PM | 1-7-2008

Bob Marley - Redemption Song

Sent by tara | 2:03 PM | 1-7-2008

Maybe Clinton's song could be rock opus, "the Professional" by Sleater-Kinney
McCain: weezer's "the good life"
Romney: DC Talk's "jesus freak"
Gravel: Rod Stewart's "Young Turks"
obama: en vogue's "free your mind"
Kucinich: TLC's "ain't to proud to beg"

I'll get started on the changes right away

Sent by Shannon Garcia | 2:25 PM | 1-7-2008

For all of the candidates:

"We've Been Had" - Uncle Tupelo

PS - Carrie, you would quit doing this blog a thousand times before you'd vote for Huckabee. He is the furthest right of all of the candidates. He's just a little less loud and about it.

For the record, I would never vote for Huckabee. -CB

Sent by Chad Bly | 2:32 PM | 1-7-2008

Though I can totally imagine Geddy Lee shreeking "I will choose free will" at a Ron Paul rally. There are libertarian references all over Rush's catalog, courtesy of drummer Neil Peart....

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 2:33 PM | 1-7-2008

think Fred Thompson is the best canidate. He is the smartest person out there. Hillary needs to quit she knows nothing!!

Sent by Heather, 16, CA | 2:50 PM | 1-7-2008

I can only imagine the headache it must be to try to find a song for a candidate. The song needs to be recognizable, descriptive up the candidate in some manner, and offend no one. The artist should be fairly innocuous as well. Certainly, the candidate doesn't pick it either. I would hope they have better things to do then look through their old vinyl to find the song that perfectly encapsulates their campaign.

This causes me to think of those new Ford Focus commercials with the mp3 voice activated player. The songs they've chosen are designed to appeal to a certain demographic, and that is fine, but what is more interesting to me is the songs they use to indicate that the person doesn't have taste in music. It seems unnecessary to offend people that like Michael Bolton. I know fans of his music may not be the ones who are going to buy that feature, but they might want to buy a Ford. The 'cool' bands are curious too. Smashing Pumpkins? Korn? At a certain level, I don't want to drive the same car as a guy who listens to Korn. I just don't. It's personally a little unsettling to know that this factors into that decision. Fortunately, this same identification issue doesn't roll over to politicians, who I perceive as culturally out of touch anyway.

Sent by mikeyj | 3:15 PM | 1-7-2008

Obama played "Pride (in the name of love)??? The only lyric I can remember from that song is "...early morning, April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis at last, they took your life but they could not take your pride..."

That Obama, a black man who some people fear might be killed for having the audacity to run for president, played a song that climaxes at the tale of MLK's assassination is astonishing to me.

Sent by lc | 4:00 PM | 1-7-2008

Although my gut feeling tells me otherwise, it is entirely possible that many of the younger candidates, such as Obama, could actually be longtime fans of U2 or other musicians that don't have their roots in the 60's or before.

Sent by Jim Tabor | 4:20 PM | 1-7-2008

To my great sadness, Elvis Costello recently played a birthday benefit for Hillary Clinton. If she had any sense, she would have used one of his songs for a theme. "(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" Would have been a pretty stellar choice for Hillary and probably even better for Obama.

Sent by Lance | 4:21 PM | 1-7-2008

I disagree somewhat with Kevin... I'd be a little worried precisely because U2 do have a tremendous discography. But the best of their work -- "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Bad", "October", all of Achtung Baby, "Stay", etc. -- is not likely to be heard at a political rally. "City of Blinding Lights" and "Beautiful Day" are only inch deep -- and were clearly only intended to be -- so I have no problem with these songs being co-opted by mainstream politicians. I have more of a problem with "Pride" or "Where the Streets Have No Name" being used, which, uplifting though they may be, actually have an original thought or two behind their euphoria.

More importantly, maybe it annoys U2, but I'd hope they're down to Earth enough to realize that as talented as they are, they're fairly well-anchored in the mainstream these days.

Sent by KobayashiMaru | 4:30 PM | 1-7-2008

Can I just say...I don't like Bono or U2.

Sent by clemente | 4:44 PM | 1-7-2008

I don't know, I think "Change Clothes" by Jay-Z would be an obvious choice for Barack Obama, any thoughts?

Sent by Joe Gallagher | 5:14 PM | 1-7-2008

When every candidate speaks-- even those I like the most-- all I think about is the 1987 Chumbawamba EP "Never Mind The Ballots" and how spot-on the lyrics are.

This comment feels very ungrammatical, but it's 5:30 pm and I've been working too long today!

Sent by nikki | 5:27 PM | 1-7-2008

I used to entertain the thoughts of many others here -- that politicians were Out of Touch Old Guys (or women) when it came to music. They mostly still are, probably. But I suspect that they might have more diverse playlists than we give them credit for, though their campaign managers will guard those details and release bits and pieces very selectively -- no need to offend a significant part of your constituency by admitting you attended a Fugazi or Rage against the Machine concert when you were younger.

To speak to Carrie's point "the further the candidates' beliefs get from our own, the less we want to know that they might actually share our cultural tastes", I experienced this first hand when Kerry Healey, Mitt Romney's Lieutenant Governor here in MA, admitted to being a Mission of Burma's possible she even attended a concert on their reunion tour. I wasn't a huge MOB fan, but it was still very disconcerting to read about.

Now if Huckabee were a Gang of Four fan...nah, no way...

Sent by Max | 5:28 PM | 1-7-2008

my head hurts thinking about these choices. just read an artcile about the nontraditional politician Steve Novick running for senate in oregon. what do you think about him, carrie?

Sent by mc | 6:08 PM | 1-7-2008

Since Obama won in Iowa, I've been playing a lot of Wilco; "A Shot in the Arm" seems like a good campaign song for him. (Given that album, though, he'd probably better hope nobody looks up the lyrics.) They'd be fun to have at the inauguration.

And staying with the Chicago theme, though I wouldn't vote for him, I think McCain could legitimately lay claim to the great Naked Raygun song "Soldiers Requiem."

But the idea I like better might be to have musicians follow around candidates as theme music, a la Fishbone in the classic "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." XtC trailing 50 feet behind John Edwards blasting "Earn Enough for Us" could work.

They could also go the parodic/satirical/critical route here... though unfortunately the only candidate who comes to mind in this respect is Rudy 9iu11iani. Songs to dog that fascist clown could include "Let's Get it On," "The Frayed Edge of Sanity," "You're So Vain," (though I guess that applies to all of 'em, on both sides), and "Far Away" by some awesome chick band from the northwest.

Sent by ironclad | 6:22 PM | 1-7-2008

I'm not sure if you're aware of this but each and every candidate represents change. Yes, change. So, the prerequisite campaign song obviously would have to be David Bowie's, Changes: "So I turned myself to face me, But I???ve never caught a glimpse, Of how the others must see the faker, I'm much too fast to take that test". Please forgive my cynicism and sarcasm, but I think I may very well vote for the person who does not use the word "change" for the next 24 hours.

Duly noted that you are not part of the Huckaboom.

Sent by East Coast Terry | 6:43 PM | 1-7-2008

At this point I'd really like to give Clinton a couple Bikini Kill records. Regardless of anyone's politics, the amount of misogyny I've seen directed at her is overwhelming, and no one seems to even care. Today was some of the worst of it.

Come on, how awesome would it be to see her walk on stage to "Alien She"? I'd laugh for days.

Sent by Karissa | 6:58 PM | 1-7-2008

I saw Huckabee playing bass on NBC Nightly News the other night and threw up in my mouth a little. Having taken several government courses in the past few years, I have learned a lot about elections and the ways in which candidates use their words and actions to draw votes. Carrie, you're absolutely right that music transcends politics, and I personally believe that fusing the two and attempting to use music to appeal to voters is beating around the bush. While personal appeal may have something to do with it, aren't elections about platforms, and beliefs regarding issues that are important to us as politically aware citizens? My question is, what is Mike Huckabee going to do to make the US a leader in saving the environment, making BASIC human rights available to all citizens, gay, straight, or purple, the war, and US foreign relations? Who gives a flying...well, you know what...if he can play bass guitar? The bottom line: Americans need to open their eyes and vote for the candidate that is going to improve the state of this nation, and run the country (something that hasn't been done for the past eight years). We must realize that the music a candidate chooses for a campaign song, or his/her mad guitar skillz aren't really going to play into being president. Then, and only then can we elect a true leader.

Sent by jeff demars | 6:58 PM | 1-7-2008

in no particular order or level of importance:
America, F**K Yeah/Team America
Someday i Will Treat You Good/Sparklehorse
What i Got/Sublime
Think/Aretha Franklin
Find Me In The Air/The Builders and The Butchers
The Chain/FMac (only with a gun to head)
Tighten Up Pt. 1/Archie Bell & The Drells
Our Time/Future Clouds & Radar
You Can Do Magic/America
Entertain or Dig Me Out/Sleater-Kinney
Let There Be Rock/AC/DC

Sent by James Martin of Portland Oregon | 8:08 PM | 1-7-2008

we all know Hillary Clinton gets high in backseats of cars and breaks in to mobile homes.

Sent by brittany | 10:46 PM | 1-7-2008

I totally agree to this:

"But it is noteworthy that U2's ubiquity has transformed their songs into ones that are both non-partisan and non-threatening, which at least in the aforementioned contexts, skirts a little close to non-music."

And on to the question: None of the candidates deserve any kind of music. Period.

Sent by sue | 12:02 AM | 1-8-2008

'Not Great Men' by Gang of Four pretty much sums it up but here's hoping I'm wrong...

In the spirit of silver lining and such...

Homeward Bound (Simon and Garfunkel) for the Democrats...

Iran so far away (Flock of Seagulls) for the Republicans

Sent by Joel from Charm City | 2:06 AM | 1-8-2008

Mitt Romney has a bit of a GOBish quality to him, how about "The Final Countdown"?

Obama came out to Kanye at a rally in NYC, I wish he'd stick with that. But I guess irish christian earnestness plays better in Des Moines.

Sent by Nick | 3:57 AM | 1-8-2008

I agree with Karissa's suggestion that Hil plug in some riot grrrl. If not as a flaunt-ation device, at least for her own sanity. Perhaps the defeated schoolyard metaphors of Bratmobile's 'Girl Germs' would help calm her nerves after the inevitable...
"you're too cozy in your all boy clubhouse to even consider having kool-aid at my house . . . how you missed out you'll realize one day"

But ???haps all she needs is more [any] sex appeal??? to which, by the way, only female politicians of zhe French type are entitled. In which case I???d prescribe a heavy dose of Brigitte Bardot. Really. America will hear the brain-wiping, leg-limping twang of the mesmeric sitar along with relentless product placement [Harley Davidson!] & be promptly wooed into submission.
Of course endorsing go-go boots as official campaign footwear wouldn???t hurt either.

"you're too cozy in your all boy clubhouse to even consider having kool-aid at my house . . . how you missed out you'll realize one day"

Sent by Zia | 4:38 AM | 1-8-2008

It might not be a shock to anyone that not everyone attending a Rage Agaisnt the Machine concert in the 90's was wise to Zapatista goings on in Mexico. And of course no one on Reagan's staff listened to "Born in the USA" just like not many folks don't bother to look up the lyrics to John (formerly Cougar) Mellencamp's "This is Our Country" .
Some people just wanna dance you know.

Sent by Simon | 5:13 AM | 1-8-2008

It's kinda funny that mention "Go your Own Way" in your blog. I was walking home from work yesterday and at the McCain rally near City Hall in Manchester that was one of the songs playing while waiting for him to arrive. I had a pretty decent chuckle to myself.

Sent by Brian from NH | 8:52 AM | 1-8-2008

Mitt Rromney: "Roll with the Changes" - REO Speedwagon
John Edwards: "Everybody's Changing" - Keane
Fred Thompson: "Changes" - Black Sabbath
John McCain: "Those Magic Changes" - The Grease Soundtrack, Sha Na Na
Barack Obama: "Change the World" - Eric Clapton & Baby Face
Mike Huckabee: "Sex Changes" - The Dresden Dolls
Rudy Giulani: "Money Changes Everything" - Cyndi Lauper (a.k.a. "I was Mayor of NYC during 9/11)
Bill Richardson: "Love Changes" - Jamie Foxx & Mary J. Blige
Hillary Clinton: "Wind of Change" - Scorpions

Let's be honest...Music does not matter. In fact, looking back, it just makes each president look like an ass. And it proves that they aren't paying attention to the lyrics, the reason behind the song or what the song is F@#&ing about. Now, they're going to run the country. Sweet.

Sent by brittani | 10:22 AM | 1-8-2008

I laugh everytime I see Huckabee playing bass guitar on TV. Reminds me of the '04 election when people went crazy that John Kerry played bass. Who CAN'T play bass guitar? As a musician, it's probably the easiest thing to pick up next to the triangle. Now, if Huckabee was doing some slap-bass funk- THAT would impress me.

Sent by Adam | 10:39 AM | 1-8-2008

lc: Obama is not using In The Name Of Love... Edwards is. Check the top of the post again

Sent by Dave Terrell, Chicago | 1:21 PM | 1-8-2008

Gang of Four works pretty well: Mitt Romney, "Natural's Not In It" or perhaps John McCain, "I Love A Man in Uniform". Or you could just hedge your bets across the Republican slate with "Not Great Men".

Sent by craig | 2:01 PM | 1-8-2008

It seems music has long been used by candidates to help them craft their narrative.Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789 ??? 1996, details many of them. I???m most interested in listening to Keep Cool and Keep Coolidge and Get on the Raft with Taft. Surely, these aren???t any better than what U2 adds to the mix. I do like the idea of a campaign hiring songwriters to craft their own songs rather than relying on popular music, though I suspect many of the Presidential campaign songs of yore were just re-workings of popular music of their time. I???m sure Mark Russell could use the work, his gig at the Omni Shoreham Hotel notwithstanding. Personally, I might ask Billy Bragg to pen my song should I make a foray into Presidential politics.

Sent by mikeyj | 3:14 PM | 1-8-2008

music does transcend politics? hmm. of course in some cases, maybe so--or at least its politics are relatively neutral. But Wagner? John Cage? Thomas Mapfumo? I'm not sure. Those might be what seem to me striking examples w/r/t instrumentation. But add lyrics in--you can't tell me that "Fortunate Son," "Combat Rock" (either one!), "#1 Must Have," "Guns of Brixton," "Ohio," "Let's Impeach the President" :), "Wilderness," "Natural's Not In It," etc., etc., don't pack a singularly bigger punch for those of us who find the politics as compelling as the music...

Sent by David G. | 3:16 PM | 1-8-2008

goddamn...a big response to politics eh?. Interesting.

Sent by Marissa Dailey | 3:23 PM | 1-8-2008

I guess It's a little amusing to analyze theme songs from past, present or future candidates campaigns. In the end no one party or president is going to have more than a marginal effect on our day to day lives anyway, So let's just load the songs onto our personal music players that turn us on, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and live our lives to the full!

Sent by Jerry | 12:03 AM | 1-9-2008

I attended a Hillary rally in Iowa the night before the caucus. Her intro music was BTO's "Takin' Care Of Business" and the outro music as Dolly Parton's "9 To 5." As for the Parton song, I wondered about the lyric "Sometimes I swear that man is out to get me."

Sent by Chuck T | 1:30 PM | 1-9-2008

McCain - Dead Kennedys - Bleed For Me or Black Sabbath's War Pigs

Obama - Anything from Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet

Sent by J. Alex | 2:09 PM | 1-9-2008

Some songs just make great montages.

Sent by STAYCEE LEE | 3:39 PM | 1-9-2008

"Yet I'm sure followers of Franz Ferdinand or Modest Mouse vote on both sides of the aisle, which is why music is better at uniting people than politicians."

Highly doubtful! I'm entirely confident in predicting that they are overwhelmingly Democrats (as are most young people these days).

Sent by bob | 4:27 PM | 1-9-2008

I remember seeing Tom Petty at Neil Young's Bridge Concert, and he launched into his set by angrily snarling "George Bush asked if he could use this song for his campaign, and I told him no way...'I Won't Back Down'!". And as the guitars squealed he got the biggest ovation of the night. Also, I believe Bobby McFerrin refused to let Bush Senior use "Don't Worry, Be Happy". How much control do artists have over the usage of their songs in politics? Is it like commercials where some publishing company can license to whomever they want? I always wondered why Bruce let Reagan use Born in the USA, maybe he didn't have a choice.

As for rock stars and their political tendencies, I'll never forget Neil Young explaining that he voted for Ronald Reagan because "He seemed real optimistic". Better not to know...

Obama: "Why Can't We Be Friends?" - War
Hillary: "I Will Survive" - Gloria Gaynor
Romney: "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" - The Kinks

Sent by arne | 5:22 PM | 1-9-2008

I want Hillary to use something so cock-rocky like Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog."

Sent by Gina V. | 8:42 PM | 1-9-2008

hillary started with a celine dion song, then somewhat recently switched to a tune by big head todd & the monsters. wow. obama usually takes the stage to u2, then exits to stevie wonder's 'signed, sealed, delivered'. both very tasteful choices. i'm not the biggest u2 fan, but i have to admit that the echo laden arpeggios that the edge lays down in their most 'anthemic' songs work perfectly as entrance music. i was present when he formally announced his candidacy in springfield last year, and 'city of blinding lights' was perfect for the moment.

i desperately wanted to come up with an appropriate theme for governor huckabee, but i simply could not find a song that encapsulated the message of christian love and inclusion that governor huck sends out to the world when he advocates quarantining gays and refusing to allow 15 year old rape victims to have abortions. don't even get me started on his insane tax plan. scientologists.

sorry about the bitter.

Sent by hike muckabee | 7:50 PM | 1-10-2008

With reverence, I would like to see the democratic troika take on Glue Man.

Edwards: Smooth Operator - Sade
Obama: As We Go Along - The Monkees
Clinton: Trouble Brother - Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise

Sent by d | 1:03 PM | 1-11-2008

The writer of this blog is a musician herself, a very good one at that. I was first turned on by a friend who got me to go to one of thier shows. I was blown away! One thing it takes to write a song is raw inspiration. A GOOD song, anyway, has to have something behind it that motivates the writer. On the subject of political themesongs, Ron Pauls supporters have been so inspired by his message that there are TONS of original songs about him out there right now. I wrote one myself. Granted, a lot of them are low budget and not up to par with the classics, but Carrie knows, as well as most musicians, that it takes something special to get motivated enough to sit down and hash out a song, and do a few takes of it until it is done to your liking. I think that speaks VOLUMES for Ron PAul.
I have not seen any songs written for any other candidate.

RON PAUL 2008!!!

Sent by brandon | 2:04 PM | 1-11-2008

the on-air comments you made today were just enough to make me wonder what the heck was going on. you're an excellent writer ???and i really have enjoyed reading your blog. but, the on air version, not so much. the nuances you achieve in the blog are one of its most enjoyable aspects. merely, editing your blog by removing sections so that it fits within the time allotted for an on air piece didn???t seem to catch those nuances. you might need to re-work a blog to its core for an on air version. and, it really bothered me that you ended the on air piece by suggesting the presidential candidates write their own songs and, that by doing so, we???d have a truer picture as to their person and character. that seemed such a self-important thing to say, it???s still bugging me. (hence why i???m leaving this comment now). it was as if you were saying that your medium, music, is the BEST way to truly know someone and, what???s more, being a music writer, is the pinnacle. but the presidential candidates are not musicians, nor are they music writers. they???re politicians. that's what they do. they???re running for the presidency. and, yet, you made the suggestion that your discipline is more capable of elucidating their inner character than their own discipline of politics. they actively campaign, deliver speech after speech, develop policy, answer endless questions and sacrifice their personal lives to achieve the office of the president. in short, they do their utmost to turn themselves inside out for public scrutiny in order to achieve the trust and confidence of a single voter. in this light, your suggestion was too much. really, i guess i???m saying, i thought it was disrespectful.

that???s not a word we like to throw around too much ???respect??? ??????we??? ???loosely constructed to mean the pomo, post 2nd wave, neo-noncomformists bred on punk rock, dissonance and independent thinking. but, there it is: respect. we want it, we assume other people will give it to us, we certainly feel it when we don???t get it. but, i'm not sure i felt that from you in your on air piece. and, i wanted to. cause you???re one of my heros and i so want you to get right what so many other people get wrong.

not trying to be a nay-sayer but, rather, give you some feedback for your consideration. i???m making the loose assumption that the editors at NPR have given you a free reign and aren???t likely to say these kinds of things to you so as to not create any unproductive tensions. and, other???s leaving comments ether aren???t having these kinds of reflections or, if they are, they wouldn???t dare say anything negative to you cause, you know, they adore you and secretly hope to meet you, date you, play music with you, etc..

after all that, i say, keep on keeping on with yer bad self. i look forward to the next installment.

Sent by norah | 3:15 PM | 1-11-2008

Jack White is too much of a pretentious asshole to let anyone play bass on stage with him

Sent by Roy | 1:41 PM | 1-14-2008

the next step guys, is to combine the songwriter with the candidate:

Sent by basil seal | 4:38 PM | 1-14-2008

What a great piece this is. Unfortunately I'm way too preoccupied with your jarringly terse formulation of how people respond to tattoos to even begin contemplating song ideas for presidential candidates. With regard to my own tattoo, who among my friends and family fall into that last category? I am going to spend far too long trying to answer this question for myself. Maybe people who dwell on such things are not meant to have tattoos.

However if Mary Timony and Dennis Kucinich did a video collaboration, I would get a commemorative tattoo without reservation, reputation be damned.

Sent by claire | 8:30 AM | 1-16-2008

I am actually really happy with Obama's choice of "City of Blinding Lights" as entrance anthem. Judging by your article I think my taste in music is quite similar to yours, and while I think early U2 is some of the greatest pop music ever made, I am not particularly impressed with "How to Disassemble an Atomic Bomb" (the album that "City of Blinding Lights" can be found on). But that said, there is something about the tonal texture of the Edge's delayed guitar, coupled with some of that Eno-esque ambience that inspires a feeling of transcendence in the listener. It is both soothing and exciting. I can think of few sounds that would be more fitting for that moment when Barack Obama comes slowly jogging through the crowd, shaking hands, hugging people, making his way to the stage. I think the choice of music in this case has less to do with making a cultural statement about coolness and more about the aesthetic quality and of that song. And I must whole-heartedly agree with them.

Sent by HS | 12:24 PM | 1-16-2008

What a great topic! While "Beholden" by Jolie Rickman come immediately to mind when thinking about the upcoming election, here's some more personalized ideas for the candidates:

McCain - "Accident waiting to happen" by Billy Bragg.
Paul - "Can't do nuttin for ya man" by Public Enemy.
Thompson - "Whoopie!! We're all going to die" by Chumbawumba.
Giuliani - "Brave new world" by Motorhead.
Huckabee - "Defenders of marriage" by Anne Feeney and "Growing up in Springfield" by Team Dresch.
Clinton - "FYR" by Le Tigre (and "Suggestion" by Fugazi).
Edwards- "Take the power back" by Rage Against the Machine.
Obama - "Love and hope" by Ozomatli.
Kucinich - "Refugee" by Neil Young.

Really enjoying your column, and the discussions they inspire. Thanks for them!

Sent by a | 2:20 PM | 1-17-2008

...thats "Refugee" by Tom Petty and "Impeach the President" by Neil Young for Kucinich.

Sent by a | 4:17 PM | 1-17-2008

I have heard that Hillary has been playing "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" at her rallies.
Fool that I am, I thought that meant the Khaela Maricich/ The Blow song "Come On Petunia".

And how subversive would that be?
A lesbian riot girl love song.

Unfortunately, I found out that its actually a song with some of the same lyrics, by some band called the Police.

Oh well.
A boy can dream.

Sent by Ries | 11:17 AM | 1-28-2008

I think Obama would do well using "Ace" by Always Searching. It's a very upbeat song, about a modern soldier, but not overly political or full of corny catch phrases.

Sent by Lisa | 4:18 PM | 1-29-2008

where was the hipster love for John Edwards - now I am not a supporter of his campaign but he has clearly done his left-leaning music research by playing a combination of Angels and Airwaves "the Adventure", Tom Petty "I won't back done", and Bruce Springsteen "the Rising."

honestly, his theme song should be It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine). it's all over for Edwards nationally - he is headed toward political obscurity by the end of this year

Sent by diego r. | 4:59 PM | 1-29-2008

Since the campaign song should be identifiable with the candidate, I feel that a new song, written expressly with the candidate in mind, will do far better to rally the voters than a song already identified with an artist.
A new one this year is called "We Have The Power" which speaks to voters from all backgrounds and political affiliations. You can listen to it at

Sent by Bets B | 5:34 PM | 1-29-2008

Nobody is talking about Bush's 2000 song "Won't Be Fooled Again" by the Who. No, Bush never got caught with an intern, but he fooled us is so many other spectacular ways that it ruined the song for me. Also, McCain needs to drop Abba's "Take a Chance on Me". He's now the front runner so go with Classic Rock. I am already hearing the overused BTO's "Takin' Care of Buisness" or some other bland song. But it would be really brave to use Jimi Hendrix playing the American Anthem (where the then set his guitar on fire!) talk about anti-Abba! And by the way Radiohead's "Electioneering" would work for every candidate, whether they like it or not.

Sent by Erin | 12:29 PM | 1-30-2008

get up get out by the rosebuds for obama and his efforts to get out the youth vote. or maybe the flaming lips yeah yeah yeah for the candidates calling for responsibility and ownership of actions

Sent by allison | 8:11 PM | 2-5-2008

How 'bout 'Simply the Best!' by Tina Turner for Hillary?!

Sent by Megan | 8:46 PM | 2-6-2008

Jolie Rickman's "Beholden" for Obama.
"I look at the stars tonight like never see such beauty on eve of war.....and I think of the children who'll awake to bombs outside their door. And my town idiot...calls himself president..and says these children---well it's unfortunate." The ending words are sung in chorus and give us hope. "There is peace down the river..there is peace along the way."

Sent by jacqueline | 4:54 PM | 5-15-2008

full lyrics of "Beholden":
I look at the stars tonight like never before
to see such beauty on the eve of war
i think of the children pulled awake to bombs outside their doors
and my town idiot calls himself president
and he says these children's deaths were unfortunate but
the stakes are human and you know someone's keeping score

Fellow Americans, you know that this war won't be won
we must wrestle our fingers from the triggers of the gun
and come and join hands with a peace-loving nation.

The price of power is manifold
your pastures of plenty are being sold
while hard-working people keep on doing what they're told

Fellow American, you know that this war won't be won
You must wrestle your finger from the trigger of the gun
and come and join hands with a peace-loving nation

I am no doctor, but if I was one
I'd inject new blood down in Washington
Like a plowsharer, like Martin Luther King,
like Kathy Kelly, like Buffy St. Marie,
like Emma Goldman, like Amy Goodman
These men and women I am beholden

Fellow American.. [chorus]

There is peace down the river, there is peace on the way.

Sent by beth | 5:08 PM | 5-19-2008