First it was Tom Petty who asked Michele Bachmann to stop using his songs at rallies, because he doesn't want "American Girl" to be associated with wingnuts. Then Katrina and the Waves asked her to stop playing "Walking on Sunshine." It's becoming difficult for Bachmann to use a campaign song without receiving a cease and desist letter, but she may have found a solution: Play the songs anyway.
On Monday Bachmann played "American Girl" before announcing her candidacy, and Petty immediately told her to knock it off. However, the Washington Post reports that she used the song again in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It's unclear if this was a mistake (it cut out after 29 seconds) or if Bachmann's team intentionally played the song to flout Tom Petty's request.
Using an artist's music against their wishes may be slimy and bring bad publicity, but Bachmann may have every right to continue using "American Girl." According to Rolling Stone, there's a legal gray area when it comes to songs played at campaign rallies:
Many legal experts feel that if the campaign buys a license from ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers] they are allowed to play any song they want without seeking approval from the artist. Others argue that the use of a song at a campaign rally implies that the artist endorses the politician, and thus they must seek approval from the musician. The matter has yet to be tested before a judge, but most politicians stop the moment that an artist complains.
The controversy over candidates using musicians songs started with Ronald Reagan mentioning Bruce Springsteen's "message of hope," during an appearance in New Jersey (contrary to popular belief, he didn't actually play the song "Born in the U.S.A.") Since then, many politicians have gotten in trouble for using artists' songs with out their permission, and — surprise, surprise — most of them were Republicans. The Washington Post reports that the last two Republican presidential candidates had quite a crowd complaining about their musical choices:
[George W. Bush] was rebuffed by four artists during his winning presidential runs in 2000 and 2004. The tunes he was slapped on the wrist for using: Petty's "I Won't Back Down," John Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.," Sting's "Brand New Day" and "Still the One" by Orleans.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had worse musical luck during his losing 2008 presidential run. Mellencamp and the Foo Fighters asked the candidate to stop playing their hits. McCain was chided by Heart after running mate Sarah Palin took the stage at the Republican National Convention to "Barracuda." And McCain eventually had to settle out of court after using Jackson Browne's"Running on Empty" in a campaign ad without permission.
Country songs are usually the safest choice for Republicans, and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." is a favorite at rallies. Bachmann may have a few other options too. The Post too the liberty of contacting several artists on her behalf, and they may have found the perfect soundtrack for her campaign: The music of Ted Nugent. He said in an email:
"Michele Bachmann is clearly a Great American. Her words have iron, her spirit is indefatigable and her beauty contagious. In a perfect world her ultimate campaign theme song would be WANG DANG SWEET [expletive] just to fire up America and prove that political correctness is laughable. But since her ‘we the people' Tea Party defiance is tantamount to setting America back on a course of rugged individualism and Herculean productivity, STRANGLEHOLD is the only choice. Godspeed [Michele]. Let em have it!"
For those unfamiliar with Nugent's catalog, the word the Post is too classy to print is "Poontang." An excerpt of the article featuring Nugent's email was posted in the "News" section of Bachmann's campaign website, so we'll assume she's at least considering it. Plus, she can keep using Katy Perry's "Firework" until somebody explains what the song's really about.
Campaigns Adopting Songs Is Nothing New, But Squabbles With Musicians Are [Washington Post]
Michele Bachmann Defies Tom Petty's Cease And Desist [Rolling Stone]
Who Will Let Michele Bachmann Use Their Song? Well, Ted Nugent, For One. [Washington Post]
Who Will Let Michele Bachmann Use Their Song? Well, Ted Nugent, For One. [Michele Bachmann]