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Band to Romney: Stop Playing Our Song

Joins list of musicians protesting misuse of songs by polticians


The Romney campaign joined the likes of Ronald Reagan, Michelle Bachmann, and John McCain when a Los Angeles-based rock band asked them to stop playing one of their songs at campaign events.

Silversun Pickups made the request after discovering their 2009 song “Panic Switch” was played during set-up for an event in North Carolina, and they were less than pleased. In a release from lead singer Brian Aubert, he said the following about the incident:

“We don’t like people going behind our backs, using our music without asking, and we don’t like the Romney campaign. We’re nice, approachable people. We won’t bite. Unless you’re Mitt Romney! We were very close to just letting this go because the irony was too good. While he is inadvertently playing a song that describes his whole campaign, we doubt that ‘Panic Switch’ really sends the message he intends.”

For their part, the Romney campaign claims the song was played inadvertently, and agreed to refrain from playing it again. They did say, though, that they had purchased a blanket license from the company that owns the rights to Silversun Pickups’ songs, and could legally play them. Both the Silversun Pickups’ publicist and attorney disagreed with this assessment, but considering the fact that Romney’s campaign agreed not to play it again, it is unlikely the dispute will go further.

Romney joins a growing list of GOP politicians who have used songs by famous musicians who were less than thrilled about the appropriation. This list includes:

  • Ronald Reagan borrowing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” in 1984, perhaps ignorant of the song’s actual meaning.
  • Michele Bachmann receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Tom Petty after she played his song “American Girl” at an event announcing her presidential run.
  • John McCain angering a slew of rockers ranging from Jackson Browne to Boston to Foo Fighters to Heart to John Mellencamp to Van Halen by playing their songs at his events (and with Browne, in an ad that eventually led to a settlement with the singer).
  • Former Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne suing then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for $1 million for using a snippet of a Talking Heads song in one of his campaign ads without permission (Crist eventually apologized).

Lest one think this is a problem exclusive to Republican politicians, soul artist Sam Moore asked Barack Obama to stop using “Soul Man” at campaign events during Obama’s 2008 campaign.

— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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