Tom Petty Against the Machine

<a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vegoose_petty.jpg">Camtim</a>/Wikimedia Commons

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


It’s been over a decade since classic rocker Tom Petty sent a polite cease-and-desist to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, asking the Texas governor to quit playing the 1989 tune “I Won’t Back Down” at rallies and events. The musician believed his song’s inclusion created, “either intentionally or unintentionally, the impression [that the Bush campaign had been] endorsed by Tom Petty, which is not true.”

As they gear up for the 2012 fray, right-wingers still haven’t gotten the message that the left-leaning singer/songwriter is just not that into them.

This time, the offending politico is tea party sweetheart Michele Bachmann, who played Petty’s song “American Girl” at her official campaign kick-off in Waterloo, Iowa. Petty will ask the Bachmann campaign “not to use that song,” NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell reported on Monday.

This isn’t the first instance of the misappropriation of pop music for political purposes:

  • In 2010, the Ayn Rand-worshipping prog-rock band Rush told Rand Paul’s senatorial campaign, “the public performance of Rush’s music is not licensed for political purposes” after they got word that Paul had blasted their music at his primary victory party at Bowling Green Country Club in Kentucky.
  • In early 2008, soul icon Sam Moore of Sam & Dave put an end to the Obama camp’s use of the duo’s 1966 classic “Hold On, I’m Comin'” stating that “I don’t want to get graphic with this, but how do you take a song about getting girls and turn it into a political thing? Somebody’s really desperate!” (Moore also has some serious conservative bona fides, having recorded some tracks for Lee Atwater’s boogie/R&B album Red Hot & Blue and allowed the ’96 Dole campaign to convert “Soul Man” into “I’m a Dole Man.”)
  • In 1984, unabashed liberals John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen were none-too-thrilled when the Reagan re-election team became enamored by their songs—especially because the campaign wildly misinterpreted their critical, non-jingoistic messages as Republican feel-good anthems.
  • It’s not exactly a campaign use, but Rage Against the Machine was not pleased when they heard their aggressive rap-metal was being used for “no-touch” torture at CIA “black sites” and military prisons.

As the push to November 2012 intensifies, let’s just hope the Obama campaign can escape the trend and resist the temptation to add Ted Nugent songs to the DNC playlist.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate