Neil Young: Sorry, Donald, But I Support Bernie Sanders

The Canadian rocker is only one of several musicians to object to the use of their songs for political purposes.

Neil Young performs onstage at the 25th anniversary MusiCares 2015 Person Of The Year Gala honoring Bob Dylan at the Los Angeles Convention Center on February 6, 2015 in Los Angeles.

Photographer: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Neil Young on Tuesday continued a storied American tradition of recording artists asking Republican candidates to stop playing their music after Donald Trump used Young's 1989 song, Rockin' in the Free World, three times during his presidential campaign announcement. 

"Donald Trump was not authorized to use Rockin' in the Free World in his presidential candidacy announcement," a representative of Young's Lookout Management said in a statement, according to Rolling Stone. "Neil Young, a Canadian citizen, is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for president of the United States of America."

Trump entered and exited to the song during his announcement, and it played briefly in the middle of his speech.  A Trump campaign representative said the campaign had paid for the right to use the song through a license agreement.

Young is only the latest artist to take issue with what they see as conservative appropriation of their patriotic-sounding anthems. Here are some other examples: 

American Girl


In 2011, then-Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, was using the Tom Petty song at her presidential campaign rallies. The artist sent her a letter asking her to stop, Rolling Stone wrote. It wasn't Petty's first Republican rally rodeo. In 2000, he asked then-presidential candidate George W. Bush to stop using Won't Back Down

Running on Empty

In 2008, Jackson Browne sued the GOP for its use of  his song Running on Empty in a campaign advertisement supporting John McCain. In July, 2009, the Republican Party paid Browne an undisclosed amount and issued a public apology, pledging to respect the rights of artists in the future, Billboard reported.


Sarah Palin took the stage at the 2008 Republican National Convention to Heart's Barracuda. As it turns out, "Sarah Barracuda" was the former vice presidential candidate's nickname during her days on the basketball team at Wasilla High School. Heart issued a statement saying Palin does not represent the group's views and asking her to stop using the song at events, Rolling Stone wrote

Waving Flag


Mitt Romney used the catchy 2010 summer hit Waving Flag during his 2012 bid for the White House until artist K'Naan asked him to stop. “I have not been asked for permission by Mitt Romney’s campaign for the use of my song,” the rapper said in a statement, according to MTV News. “If I had been asked, I would certainly not have granted it. I would happily grant the Obama campaign use of my song without prejudice.”

Romney actually caught more musician heat that cycle. The band Silversun Pickups sent their own cease-and-desist letter, asking him to stop using their song Panic Switch

Born in the U.S.A.

During his re-election campaign, Ronald Reagan referred to Bruce Springsteen at a campaign event in the Boss's native New Jersey. According to Politico's retelling of events, Reagan said, “America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in the songs of a man so many young Americans admire—New Jersey’s own, Bruce Springsteen.” In late summer of 1984, Reagan likely would have been talking about the songs on Born in the U.S.A., Springsteen's recently released and wildly successful album. Its chronically misinterpreted title track does not bear a message of hope but addresses disenfranchisement in the wake of the Vietnam War. Springsteen pointed this out to the president at the next show on his tour. From Politico:  

“Well, the president was mentioning my name in his speech the other day,” Springsteen told his Friday-night audience in Pittsburgh, “and I kind of got to wondering what his favorite album of mine must’ve been, you know? I don’t think it was the Nebraska album. I don’t think he’s been listening to this one.”

He then launched into “Johnny 99” from Nebraska, his last album before Born in the U.S.A. —much lower profile and much less “poppy.” It’s an austere set of songs about loners and criminals that Springsteen recorded himself in an empty rented house over a single night in the dead of winter.

Don't Worry, Be Happy


For the 1988 election, George H.W. Bush used Bobby McFerrin's hit Don't Worry, Be Happy at campaign events. McFerrin asked Bush to stop, saying he planned to vote for Michael Dukakis. Unfortunately for McFerrin, the song stayed associated with the Bush campaign, the New York Times wrote in 1989. 

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