Adele objects to Trump using her tunes


By Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune

Donald Trump didn’t just lose Iowa this week. He lost Adele.

The best-selling British recording artist seeks to distance herself from the businessman/TV star/presidential candidate who has used her tunes at campaign events.

Her songs “Rolling in the Deep” (“We could have had it all …”) and “Skyfall” (“When it crumbles, we will stand tall, face it all together …”) reportedly have been heard at Trump events.


But a spokesman for the singer has told media outlets: “Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning.”

Campaign music may seem trivial, yet it speaks to how the candidates choose to package and advertise themselves as well as their attention to detail.

Time has shown campaign theme music can have lasting associations with the people who adopt the songs.

It’s tough to recall Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign without thinking of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” or H. Ross Perot that year just as memorably adopting Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”

But it’s fear of those associations that have caused backlash and requests by recording stars such as John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the group Survivor to quit it over the last 30 years or so.

Trump’s campaign team, consistent with his brand, evidently isn’t wasting any time asking for permission over whose music to use. Artists’ leverage comes from their ability to claim that their image and reputation may be damaged.

Lawyers for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler told Trump’s people not to use “Dream On” at events.


Neil Young, who has endorsed Bernie Sanders, told Trump’s people to stop playing “Rockin’ in the Free World,” a song critical of President George H.W. Bush.

“Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign,” Michael Stipe of REM said in a statement after the Trump campaign used REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” Reportedly, Stipe also objected to its use by Ted Cruz.

Frankly, there’s no reason Trump, of all people, should have fallen into this all-too-common campaign trap even once.

Unlike most candidates, he already has a theme song through his reality show, NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

Why he was fooling around with “Rolling in the Deep” is a mystery when he could just play The O’Jays “For the Love of Money.”

Not only is it a song with which Trump is already associated to the objection of no one, the crowd can sing along: “Money, money, money, monnney, monnnnnnney …”

Now, the unabridged song itself is not exactly a paean to unbridled capitalism. Even the cutdown version that played over the opening credits each week referred to people doing bad things with money and noted “money can drive some people out of their minds.”

But neither Trump nor his many fans ever seemed to mind that before.

That’s the thing about music when it’s placed in a new context, whether it’s a campaign, an ad or something else. If it’s a catchy tune, surprisingly few people ever pay close attention to the real implications.

That Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” is not exactly an upbeat commentary on America, for example, would have been obvious to Ronald Reagan’s 1984 election advisers had they studied the lyrics.

It’s like when the robot band of animals at Chuck E. Cheese launches into “Melt With You,” a song about a couple getting romantic during a nuclear apocalypse, and few of the families in the joint think twice about it.

Musicians increasingly are willing to allow their music to be used in advertising as it’s a way to gain exposure for their work and make money, but they’re often still choosy when it comes to what they’re helping promote.

Politics can be seen as too divisive and then there’s the matter of whether the artists and candidates share the same views.

This happens often enough that one wonders why more campaigns don’t simply commission their own theme songs and/or interview potential artists ahead of time. The Sanders campaign recently secured Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” for an ad.

Until Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advisers plucked “Happy Days Are Here Again” from the 1930 musical “Chasing Rainbows” for his music at the ’32 Democratic convention, presidential candidates relied on original music.

“Little Know Ye Who’s Coming” – essentially an attack ad set to music – warned of all the woes that would befall America if John Quincy Adams’ reelection bid in 1828 failed and Andrew Jackson became president, which he did in a rout.

Sample lyrics: “Fears are comin’, tears are comin’/Plague and pestilence is comin’/Hatin’s comin’, Satan’s comin’/If John Quincy not be comin'”

Practically all that most of us remember about William Henry Harrison’s 1840 victory over Martin Van Buren, besides Harrison’s fatal failure to bundle up for his chilly inauguration that landed veep John Tyler the top job a month later, is the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.”

But the phrase – with its allusion to a Harrison victory with the Indiana militia – originated as a lyric in a campaign song, “Tip and Ty,” which promised victory over “little Van … Van is a used-up man.”

Two years ahead of Dwight Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign, Irving Berlin wrote “They Like Ike” for the musical “Call Me Madam.” Tweaked only a bit for the actual White House run, it was complemented by “I Like Ike” buttons.

Frank Sinatra rerecorded a version of his 1959 hit “High Hopes” for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign theme, which began: “Everyone is voting for Jack/’Cause he’s got what all the rest lack …”

Carol Channing, four years later, belted out “Hello, Lyndon” to the tune of “Hello, Dolly” at the ’64 Democratic convention. Ed Ames later recorded the song for LBJ’s election effort.

Barack Obama, in 2008, used songs such as Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and Ben Harper’s “Better Way,” but had to pull Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming” when Sam Moore objected.

There apparently were no hard feelings, however; Moore performed at one of Obama’s inaugural events.

The good news is once elected, a perk of the job is it comes with its own song, “Hail to the Chief.” It’s in the public domain, so no one owns the rights to it, and its lyrics are rarely sung.


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