Support journalism that matters to you

Since COVID-19 impacts us all and we want everyone in our community to have the important information they need, we have decided to make all coronavirus related stories free to read on While we are providing free access to articles, they are not free to produce. The newsroom is working long hours to provide you the news and information you need during this health emergency. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing or donating.

Not your song

“You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.”

What Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones want, but can’t seem to get, is for President Donald Trump to stop using their song to cap off his rallies. But the Stones and other musicians unhappy when politicians use their songs at campaign events will continue to get what they need: compensation.

Musical pop stars being upset over politicians using their music to grab some of that popularity for themselves goes back several decades, but it may be reaching its pinnacle with complaints aimed at Trump as he restarts his rallies for the 2020 election.

Bruce Springsteen told President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign to cut it out when, in 1984, The Gipper used “Born in the USA.” Springsteen repeated his demand in 1996 as Republican Bob Dole used the song as he sought to unseat incumbent Bill Clinton. Other conservatives have done likewise over the years.

This makes us wonder if anyone in these campaigns listened to the song aside from its patriotic chorus. Much of it expresses the disillusionment of working-class Americans and decries the lack of support for veterans.

Tom Petty, not being a conservative Republican, repeatedly told conservative Republicans not to use his “I Won’t Back Down” in their campaign events. Now the estate of the singer, who died in 2017, has done likewise in demanding the president not again use the song after it was played at his recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Petty family put it bluntly: “Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together.”

Rihanna was aghast when her 2008 hit, "Please Don't Stop the Music," showed up at what she called Trump’s “tragic rallies.”

It is predominately the Republican use of the music that finds disfavor. The musicians have a point in not wanting a song’s use to suggest their support for a candidate.

Performers, however, sell song rights to Performance Rights Organizations, which opens it to use at events. Some artists maintain the right to deny use for political events, but the venues in which the events occur usually hold the rights, providing a loophole.

Politicians typically acquiesce to requests to stop using certain songs. Trump should do likewise. But, then again, what the heck would be left to play at his rallies?

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


Loading comments...
Hide Comments