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Lists: 2010's most inappropriate campaign songs

david byrneStop making sense. And stop using David Bryne's songs in your political campaign.

By Allison Stewart

Back in '84, when Bruce Springsteen famously went all super-ninja on Ronald Reagan's campaign because of its unauthorized use of "Born in the U.S.A.," it was the first salvo in an ongoing battle between (usually Democratic) musicians and (usually Republican) candidates.

Since then, campaigns, artists and their legal teams have scrapped over the fair use of the artists' songs. Due to copyright issues and complicated legalities concerning the use of a song for political purposes, candidates usually have to ask permission before using a song, especially in an ad.

Click Track compiled a list of some current candidates and their theme music, and ranked their choices on a scale of inappropriateness, 1 to 10.

One means a pretty obvious match between candidate and song -- like in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln used "Lincoln and Liberty" ("They'll find what by felling and mauling/Our railmaker statesman can do!"). Ten denotes a violation of common sense and good taste so egregious that it sent the song's creator into a fit of total, face-melting apoplexy -- like when John McCain used Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" in '08 (they settled out of court).

Below, a look at the candidates of today, and the possible lawsuits of tomorrow:

Candidate: Rand Paul (R)

Running For: U.S. Senate, Kentucky

Song: "Tom Sawyer" and "The Spirit of Radio," Rush. Paul also quotes from the latter song ("Glittering prizes and endless compromises/Shatter the illusion of integrity") in his speeches.

Did he/she get sued?: Not yet; the band's lawyer sent a sternly-worded letter.

General Inappropriateness Level: 4. Rush are Canadians, but self-described libertarians. And Paul might actually like Rush.

(More Canadians, plus Ozzy, after the jump. Yes, Ozzy!)

Candidate: Meg Whitman (R)

Running For: Governor, California

Song: "Takin' Care of Business," Bachman-Turner Overdrive, reportedly played at campaign events.

Did he/she get sued?: Not that we know of.

General Inappropriateness Level: 3. Whitman is the former CEO of Ebay, so the business motif makes sense. But she's the second Republican candidate this election cycle to outsource her campaign music to a Canadian band.


Candidate: Charlie Crist (I)

Running For: U.S. Senate, Florida

Song: The Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere," used in a campaign ad.

Did he/she get sued?: Yes, by the Heads' David Byrne, who has never allowed the use of his music in an ad. "I’m a bit of a throwback that way," Byrne said on his blog, "as I still believe songs occasionally mean something to people."

General Inappropriateness Level: 6. Not so much because of Byrne's objections, but because songs with a positive message tend to play better.


Candidate: Rick Perry (R)

Running For: Governor, Texas

Song: "Crazy Train," Ozzy Osbourne, used by Perry's supporters in an ad against opponent (and light rail enthusiast) Bill White.

Did he/she get sued?: Not that we know of.

General Inappropriateness Level: 10. But the part where the guy in the ad solemnly talks about document shredding while Randy Rhoads is actually shredding? Awesome.

By Allison Stewart  |  June 8, 2010; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Lists  | Tags: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, David Byrne, Ozzy Osbourne, Rush, Talking Heads  
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Next: Clicky shuffle: Random songs for Wednesday morning


My historical favorite:

William H. Taft: Get on a Raft with Taft.

Posted by: josh18 | June 8, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Nice! You just don't see songs with candidates' names in them anymore. Maybe because they don't rhyme as well? Or maybe it's just considered kinda dorky.

Posted by: Allison Stewart | June 9, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

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