Live-blogging: The music of politics

I’ve been a disgruntled music fan ever since Mercedes Benz used Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz in an advertisement. It was just…. wrong.

Today on Midmorning (starting at 10 a.m.), Kerri Miller and the Current’s Steve Seel, along with Eric Danton of the Hartford Courant, are going to talk about the music of politics. Barack Obama has appropriated Bruce Springsteen in this campaign (several of his songs on his latest album seemed intended to be lifted for the campaign). The Clintons, of course, made Fleetwood Mac totally unlistenable forever. Has Lee Greenwood recorded a hit since he recorded “Proud to be an American“? Has he had to?

Back in 1992, Ross Perot used Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”

I’ll be living blogging today’s hour. I’m guess some of you will have good suggestions for possible campaign songs (I’m guessing most of them will be in jest), and great analysis. So don’t let me down.

10:05 a.m. – Just kicking around songs in the studio before airtime. Romney used Presley’s A Little Less Conversation and Kennedy used “High Hopes.” Kerri opens show with “Don’t Stop.” If the Three Stooges were still alive, Fleetwood Mac would replace Niagra Falls.

10:08 a.m. – Kerri’s question: What songs should the campaigns use to “rev people up”? I was just recalling the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1996. The Democrats brought in the cast of Rent to provide music. I never did figure out why.

10:11 a.m. – Question: Does music really make a difference? It’s aimed at swing voters, Seel suggests. “How can you pick a song that appeals to one group of people and leave another group scratching their heads about the choice?”

10:13 a.m. – Do the words have to mean anything? Danton says “no, but they shouldn’t detract.” Uses Born in the USA as an example. The words are an indictment of the economy in Reagan’s economy.

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary

Out by the gas fires of the refinery

Im ten years burning down the road

Nowhere to run aint got nowhere to go

10:15 a.m. Seel: Clinton used American Girl. “A gross mistake because it’s a song about suicide.”

t was kind of cold that night

She stood alone on her balcony

She could the cars roll by

Out on 441

Like waves crashin in the beach

And for one desperate moment there

He crept back in her memory

God its so painful

Something thats so close

And still so far out of reach

10:17 – Caller Sarah questions the use of Barracuda at the RNC in St. Paul after Palin’s speech. When she thinks of McCain, she thinks of “18 and life.”

Tequila in his heartbeat, his veins burned gasoline.

It kept his motor running but it never kept him clean.

They say he loved adventure, rickys the wild one.

He married trouble and had a courtship with a gun.

Bang bang shoot em up, the party never ends.

You cant think of dying when the bottles your best friend

10:19 – Talking about using the song in venues and licensing fees and whether artists can refuse to allow campaigns to use songs. Danton says if there’s music as background, that’s covered by ASCAP/BMI licensing. But if campaigns use it in a more prominent say, the artist can refuse. Two different royalties are involved, he says.

10:22 Caller Taylor: Says he was one of the audio engineers at the RNC in St. Paul. He worked 5 weeks ahead of time preparing thngs. He was in charge of live music. The inside scoop: They hadn’t made any choices to have any music at all but the pressure was so great from the Democrats so the jazz band that played all four days was only scheduled for one. They caught the band at the airport to come back and provide some music. The only other piece was the “Raisin’ McCain” song by John Rich. He says the engineers wrote a song that will be available on It’s called “The Change.” The URL doesn’t work right now.

10:28 a.m. – Here’s Eric Danton’s blog. Top story: Britney Spears to release new album.

10:31 a.m. – I’m recalling the reaction on Twitter after Obama’s speech. He played country music. Country music is practically owned by the Republican Party. Rolling Stone has a note about the choice; it didn’t bother Brooks & Dunn, apparently. They were big Bush backers.

10:44 a.m. – Perhaps we can learn more about the candidates by the music they like. Here are the comparisons.

10:46 a.m. – Caller talks about how songs have become commodities. I wonder whether songwriters are writing songs specifically so they can be used in commercials.

10:49 a.m. – “What does Marvin Gaye say to you,” Miller asks Seel.(It’s on Obama’s list of favorites). “A cry for unity,” he says, after pointing out that the list of favorite music by politicians is probably not really their favorite music, but another pitch for a demographic. But if that’s true, would you really name ABBA as your favorite?

10:53 a.m. Commenter asks if McCain know that Dancing Queen is about gay men? I’m not sure it is, the lyrics focus on a 17 year old girl, looking for a “king.”

10:54 a.m. — I’m surprised nobody has mentioned probably the longest-lasting campaign song in history, next to, perhaps Happy Days are Here Again.: Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood.

  • bigalmn

    Most of the people reading this blog won’t remember the Kennedy-Nixon election, but I remember (and Bob you are probably old enough to remember too) the old rubber tree song that Kennedy used as part of his campaign. It was terrible and it was playing everywhere.

    I don’t remember any of the other songs since then, but for some reason that one is ingrained in my head.

  • I won’t be truly happy until a campaign uses Yo-yo Ma and Allison Kraus doing “Simple Gifts” (as heard on MPR).

  • tony

    I think Obama’s campaign should play “Big Mouth Strikes Again” by The Smiths in the background whenever referencing the Republican VP candidate.

  • grondin

    I still have a bitter flashback every time I hear “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. I was so young when the song was originally popular that I bounced around to the pop song all the time. Then Reagan used it in 1980 and it’s been a source of pain ever since.

    (Bob notes: It was actually GW Bush who used it)

  • Lori

    Some suggestions:

    Won’t Back Down-Tom Petty

    I Can See Clearly Now-Johnny Nash

    Here Comes The Sun-George Harrison

  • tony

    O-o-h Child – The Five Stairsteps

    Would be great for BO but hearing it endlessly for months would ruin the song for the rest of us who are calmed by it’s dulcet tones.

  • omi

    ben harper…”with my own two hands”. perfect for obama campaign!

  • Kelley

    Does Johnnie know that “Dancing Queen” is the anthem of gay men everywhere? Surely Sarah Palin would see this as opposed to the Bush doctrine..

  • Hussein Ahmed

    Hi There!

    I am a regular listener of Midmorning and luv it!

    I think Obama campaign team should choose the following songs which I think might fit his message:

    1) Times are getting harder by Culture; or

    2) Have little Faith in me by Joe Cocker.

    Thank you!

    Keep up the great work in Midmorning Keri!

    Hussein Ahmed

    (and I am listening!)

  • tony

    Life During Wartime – Talking Heads

    Perfect Song lyrics, song name, and band name for the republican party. A hat trick!

  • RUTH

    Listening to Obama’s speaches I sometimes hear an almost direct quote form Queen’s song “A Kind of Magic”:” One dream, one soul, one prize,

    One goal, one golden glance of what should be”

    And then it continues:

    It’s a kind of magic,

    One shaft of light that shows the way,

    No mortal man can win this day,

    It’s a mind of magic,

    The bell that rings inside your mind,

    It’s a challenging the doors of time,

    It’s a kind of magic,

    The waiting seems eternity,

    The day will dawn of sanity,

    It’s a kind of magic,

    There can be only one,

    This rage that lasts a thousand years

    Will soon be gone,

    This flame that burns inside of me,

    I’m hearing secret harmonies

    It’s a kind of magic,

    The bell that rings inside your mind,

    Is challenging the doors of time,

    It’s a kind of magic,

    It’s a kind of magic,

    This rage that lasts a thousand years,

    Will soon be will soon be,

    Will soon be gone,

    This is a kind of magic,

    There can only be one,

    This life that lasts a thousand years,

    Will soon be gone,

    Magic – it’s a kind of magic,

    It’s a kind of magic,

  • tony

    Life During Wartime

    Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons,

    Packed up and ready to go

    Heard of some gravesites, out by the highway,

    A place where nobody knows

    The sound of gunfire, off in the distance,

    I’m getting used to it now

    Lived in a brownstore, lived in the ghetto,

    I’ve lived all over this town

    This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,

    This ain’t no fooling around

    No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,

    I ain’t got time for that now

    Transmit the message, to the receiver,

    Hope for an answer some day

    I got three passports, a couple of visas,

    You don’t even know my real name

    High on a hillside, the trucks are loading,

    Everything’s ready to roll

    I sleep in the daytime, I work in the nightime,

    I might not ever get home

    This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,

    This ain’t no fooling around

    This ain’t no mudd club, or c. b. g. b.,

    I ain’t got time for that now

    Heard about houston? heard about detroit?

    Heard about pittsburgh, p. a.?

    You oughta know not to stand by the window

    Somebody might see you up there

    I got some groceries, some peant butter,

    To last a couple of days

    But I ain’t got no speakers, ain’t got no

    Heaphones, ain’t got no records to play

    Why stay in college? why go to night school?

    Gonna be different this time

    Can’t write a letter, can’t send a postcard,

    I can’t write nothing at all

    This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,

    This ain’t no fooling around

    I’d like to kiss you, I’d love you hold you

    I ain’t got no time for that now

    Trouble in transit, got through the roadblock,

    We blended with the crowd

    We got computer, we’re tapping pohne lines,

    I know that ain’t allowed

    We dress like students, we dress like housewives,

    Or in a suit and a tie

    I changed my hairstyle, so many times now,

    I don’t know what I look like!

    You make me shiver, I feel so tender,

    We make a pretty good team

    Don’t get exhausted, I’ll do some driving,

    You ought to get some sleep

    Get you instructions, follow directions,

    Then you should change your address

    Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day,

    Whatever you think is best

    Burned all my notebooks, what good are

    Notebooks? they won’t help me survive

    My chest is aching, burns like a furnace,

    The burning keeps me alive

    Try to stay healthy, physical fitness,

    Don’t want to catch no disease

    Try to be careful, don’t take no chances,

    You better watch what you say

  • Perhaps we should have taken more notice when Lehmann brothers used the opening line of Happiness Is A Warm Gun for their theme song. ” I need a fix cause I’m goin’ down.”

  • JohnnyZoom

    >>O-o-h Child – The Five Stairsteps

    >> hearing it endlessly for months would ruin the song for the rest of us […].

    Yes, please, don’t ruin the song by using it. It’s a great one. (Still remember watching Boyz in da Hood (sp?) and then not remembering anything that happened after hearing the song…)

    Athough I doubt anyone will. The irony is, both campaigns could make quite a good case for using it. But very very different cases.