Tom Petty is reportedly upset that Rep. Michele Bachmann played his song, “American Girl,” at the conclusion of her announcement that she wants to be president of the United States.
It’s an appropriate song beyond the title, perhaps, because American Girl, itself , has been fact-checked over the years, and meaning attributed to it has generally been wrong. Mrs. Bachmann, as NPR suggested today, is a fact-checker’s dream.
One urban legend has suggested it’s about a woman committing suicide at the University of Florida. That’s wrong.
So what is the song about? Nothing, really. It was inspired by cars whizzing by his apartment. They sounded like waves at the beach, he said. Oh.
In selecting a song written in 1978, Mrs. Bachmann continues a political cliche: Using old songs while presenting oneself as a candidate of fresh ideas.
In the last presidential election, for example, Hillary Clinton used Bachmann-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business,” a song from the early ’70s (She also used “American Girl”), Mike Huckabee went with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” Chris Dodd chose the Temptations “Get Ready”, and John McCain went with ABBA’s, “Take a Chance on Me.” Those are all songs from the ’70s or mid-’60s. They all lost.
What were they trying to tap into if not music associated with some of the cruddiest years in our nation’s history?
Barack Obama, meanwhile, alternated between the Black Eyed Peas, “Yes We Can,” Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” and U2’s “City of Blinding Lights.” Those were all songs that were popular in the same decade as the election.
There might be a lesson there.