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Battle of Bands and Political Brands

You have to love it every time a politician gets nailed for copyright infringement for appropriating a song to convey his or her “message.”

Where politicians and musicians cross paths and draw swords a sordid battle of the bands and brands plays out every election season. Now Donald Trump has pissed off Queen. The real Queen, that is—the band.

His opportunity to anger the Queen of Chaos will happen later, in their debates.

When Trump used Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his campaign opening so many months ago, Neil didn’t put him down, didn’t do all he could do—that is sue. Maybe Trump has it in his head that every musician is as mellow and unconcerned with the imagery/message as Young.

Clearly that would be incorrect.

Wrong is wrong, and musicians have every right to oppose the pols who misappropriate their tunes, particularly if they disagree with the politician’s agenda.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist landed in trouble with David Byrne in 2010 for using “Road to Nowhere” in a negative ad against his opponent, whose name escapes me.

Get it? The other guy was on a road to nowhere in his race with Crist. You can’t get much more clever than that now, can you?

Those of us old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s misappropriation of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” which Reagan and/or his handlers evidently believed to be the new national anthem in his 1984 re-election campaign, can see a common pattern here.

At the time, Reagan’s theft was just another example of how clueless he and his fellow Republicans were.

Devoid of anything like a poetic sensibility, they didn’t listen to the lyrics or comprehend Springsteen’s song, a scathing indictment of U.S. foreign policy during the Vietnam War era.

One might disagree with the politics of Reagan or Springsteen, but what is one to make of such sweeping ignorance?

There are artists, such as David Byrne and Springsteen, who simply will not tolerate being used by the power-elite for purposes contrary to their own political philosophies, never mind the many copyright infringements that occur.

It’s puzzling, or a sad sign of the times, that so many of these rip-off politicians are lawyers to begin with. As such, why aren’t they familiar with the mainstream in American life? Can their educations at Harvard and Yale be that bad? Is being elite the same thing as being idiotic?

Don’t answer that…

Byrne used the same attorney who made John McCain pay for misappropriating Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” in 2008. I mean, Springsteen, Byrne, and Jackson Browne? Aren’t all these artists about as mainstream as they come?

It makes you wonder how out of touch some of these politicians actually are. It could be far worse than we even imagine.

I applaud every artist who takes on these jackasses; their very effrontery is what makes them despicable.

But back to the beginning, regarding Trump and Queen. Aside from the Trumpists’ horrible lack of imagination, what is up with appropriating the tired old anthem, “We are the Champions?”

Hasn’t it already been played to death at every sporting event from the Pee Wee Leagues to the Super Bowl?

Trump likes the lawsuit route himself; let’s hope Queen slaps him around a courtroom soon.

More articles by:

Terry Simons is the founder of Round Bend Press Books in Portland, Oregon.  This story is excerpted from his memoir of growing up in Oregon, A Marvelous Paranoia.

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